Melanie Bien: Why she's shouting, Allez Arsenal!

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Nerves are jangling and the tension is rising. With nine weeks until the start of the 2004-05 football season, many fans, like myself, are relying on the European Championships to fill the void.

Nerves are jangling and the tension is rising. With nine weeks until the start of the 2004-05 football season, many fans, like myself, are relying on the European Championships to fill the void.

But even though I'm thrilled to have a ticket for the England v France game, it's probably not for the reasons you'd imagine. As an Arsenal season-ticket holder, I'm excited about seeing the Arsenal players, no matter which national team they play for.

While I love football and my country, I love Arsenal more. Even though England fans will consider this sacrilegious, I just can't get as enthused about tonight's game as I would if it were Arsenal v Real Madrid in the Champions League. Or even Arsenal v River Plate in a pre-season friendly (the Amsterdam Tournament in July: I've booked my flight).

Male England-supporting friends despair when I admit I won't be terribly upset if England lose. Some accuse me of being unpatriotic, while others reckon it's got something to do with me being female and therefore basing my support on how good the players' legs are.

But those supporters who fall into the "club before country" camp understand. With half "my" team playing for the "opposition", you won't find me shouting obscenities at France's - and Arsenal's - brilliant striker Thierry Henry (who also happens to have a cracking pair of legs).

Berating Paul Scholes (because he plays for Manchester United) comes much more easily, as does not joining in the fulsome praise that is heaped upon Liverpool's Steven Gerard. It was even worse when Teddy Sheringham - much hated by Arsenal fans for his Spurs affiliation - pulled on an England shirt. At least I don't have to worry about him anymore.

The emotion I am most likely to experience tonight is worry - not about the result but whether England fans behave themselves and the Arsenal players emerge unscathed. My brother - a fellow Arsenal fan - is having recurring nightmares about Sol Campbell executing a crunching tackle on Henry, resulting in both of them breaking a leg.

I have decided not to wear an England shirt: it only seems right that I wear an Arsenal one. It's got Tony Adams' name on the back. He captained England as well as Arsenal, so maybe I am leaning slightly towards my country.

But if Les Bleus do triumph, I'm bound to be the happiest England fan on the flight home.

Comments