Date: 24th July 2014 at 4:38pm
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A long, boring introduction about the city of New York will surely be out of place on a cosmopolitan site like Vital Arsenal but I can’t resist the temptation. A pastime and an obsession of long time residents and recent arrivals is the accurate determination of one’s connection to the city, officially made up of the Bronx, Brooklyn, New York, New York (Manhattan), Queens, and Staten Island.

From time to time popular radio stations as well as low and high brow news media outlets promote call-ins and other programs asking people to share the moments when they knew they have become a true ‘New Yorker’. And it has nothing to do with one’s place of origin, or place of birth, or years of sojourning in the city; nothing at all to do with any imaginable run of the mill measurable standards. It is supposed to be a spiritual experience, an epiphany of a sort that comes upon you and instantly your past and spatial connections dissolve.

For Arsenal fans, New York City is more than just a great city. Among long term football fans it is becoming a received wisdom that New York City is an Arsenal town. Ask for justification and the answers pre-date Arsene Wenger and the current formulation of the English league. Anfield `89 and Fever Pitch, the print and the silver screen versions, are often credited for introducing Arsenal to New Yorkers. But there is a competing and compelling alternative explanation.

As this legend goes, Arsenal became a true home-town football club largely because those who first embraced the club were without doubt ‘pure’ New Yorkers through and through. These early supporters were disproportionately drawn from the artistic tribe – writers, actors/actresses, producers both in Broadway and Hollywood. Later the academic and finance tribe joined in. For native New Yorkers and much of the city’s sports families, these early followers and their pedigrees are as important as the club they chose to support. In terms of numbers there may be more Man United and Liverpool supporters in the metropolitan area. The difference though is these supporters by perception at least cannot shake off the ‘expat’ identity. Funny thing is Arsenal last visited in 1989 and yet the legend of a home-town team still lives on.

When one of the titans of America’s broadcast network (National Broadcasting Corporation, NBC) acquired the rights to televise premier league games last season it was reported that Arsenal Football Club was approached and rejected the opportunity to star in an EPL advertisement in the ‘business district’. Interestingly, there were celebrations of this rejection among some hardcore Arsenal fans. A true New York club needs no neon-lit announcements in Times Square.

This month fans in NYC are celebrating the one-day visit and looking out for a splash. Arsenal Football Club has not disappointed. An all-day event is planned for Friday, July 25, from 9:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the Grand Central Terminal, Vanderbilt’s Hall. It can’t get any better. The renovation of this 1913 iconic railway station was completed in 1998, and according to one New York author ‘the incredible vaulted ceiling shows the night sky painted backward ? to allow travellers to picture the stars as God would have seen them.’ That Arsenal is holding an all-day event at a spot where all New Yorkers of all stripes have easy access to and millions of harried workers pass through on their way to work and back home is an incredible stroke of genius, marketing-wise (see http://www.grandcentralterminal.com/event/puma-and-arsenal-ny-kick-off-event/2145440640).



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