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In Costa Rica obsessed by Arsenal

By Josh Bednash

Club is the drug for some

I didn´t really picture it like this. The night me and my traveling companion arranged a swift rendezvous at the White Swan on Highbury Corner, clinked pint glasses and in the most constructive hour of my life planned an excursion around the Americas, the months March-July were still masquerading in my mind as the second half of the year. Not, as I foolishly failed to note that night, the second half of the season.

The Golden Beaches of Tamarindo – Give me Bloomfield Road?

Fever Pitch, a book I make no apologies for referencing almost relentlessly, sees Nick Hornby talk about how his life is effectively lived in seasons, not years. Things happen not in an isolated annus, but in pairs of annuses... sorry anni. He would say, for example, the best ¨season¨ of his life was 1988-1989. The year 1989, was as it goes, probably largely mundane. The mundanity thereof increased tenfold by the dead months between June and August. For a football fan, July may as well not exist. On the years ending in an even number, England are usually out of any such international dog-fight by July anyway, so these alternative glimmers of hope need not be a concern. From August, things happen. Fun things. Things we like to talk about, and watch, and read about and listen to. After May, and before the following August, nothing happens. Literally nothing. Yeah we sit in the park, drink cider and constantly refresh the BBC gossip column but, and especially in light of this final pastime, the summer months for an Arsenal fan are dead, non-existent, capiche!

Never before have I experienced the reality of this perverted calendar system to such a degree, until now. Currently halfway across the world, more specifically in the burning hot tropics of Costa Rica, Arsenal have painfully ceased to be the overwhelming fulcrum of my being, and instead are a flickering flame I´m blowing on, fanning and adding gasoline to daily just to keep alive. Three weeks in and so far I´ve enjoyed every moment, more or less. It´s a fantastic experience. One that I´m sure will continue to excite, frighten, exilirate and enrich, but one that will always lack one special feeling. The drug, the fix, the obsession that is in a moment satisfied as I walk into our glorious stadium at Ashburton Grove, or trot up the concrete of Bloomfield Road, White Hart Lane or Craven Cottage in the coming months. Matches that could be incredible and momentous, or more likely painful and familiar, but nonetheless ones that for a second provide the sensation that both knocks the breath out of your lungs and riles each of your senses in tandem. The football season is still in play, and whilst that remains to be the case, the ¨year¨ by which others refer to it, just fills in the gaps.

As for so many, when one ends, the next begins. One Saturday comes to a close, and already the only thing on my mind is next week’s game. At home though, I have everything I need to fill the time between matches. Endless internet pages, a plethora of papers, photos, books, programmes, memories. Although the golden beaches of Tamarindo or beautifully unkempt streets of Havana are remarkable sights, the sad fact is that each day is just another stepping stone towards Arsenal´s next fixture, and the next difficult search for an adequate location to catch the game.

Having departed the morning after the Barcelona game, deflated and unoptimistic about the end to the season, I was in the best possible frame of mind. I was prepared for the season to crumble in front of my eyes, and was, frankly, glad to be away from the mess for five minutes. But then, once the five minutes was up, I was craving it again, so much so that I lifted the habitual media lockdown that follows a defeat to scan The Times’ critique of our performance. This because the next truly satisfying helping was a whole three days away.

So, perched at the ideal angle so as to avoid the glare of Cuba´s unrelenting morning sunshine, I took up my position at the outdoor bar of the ´Hotel Sevilla´ to watch the FA Cup tie with United that Saturday. What ensued was not worth the hours of phone calls and research in broken Spanish to find an apt television. However, what pained me the most about the ensuing two hours was not the result, the performance nor the farcical injuries, all of which warranted more of a ¨meh¨ reaction because of their familiarity and predictability. Instead, it was the way in which, with five minutes to go, 2-0 down against our great rivals and faltering towards yet another cup exit, I was literally pleading with the barman not to change the channel. He insisted it was ¨terminado¨, which, of course, it was. Though that was an irrelevance. This was perhaps going to be my last fix for a week, I had to drink in every last, demoralizingly painful, make-you-want-to-eat-your-own-fist moment.

The following week, as I sat very much alone for the majority of a shambolic performance at West Brom, a similar fate occured. I watched helplessly, and for moments, in fits of muted rage as the season went from bad to horrendous. Though despite this, and despite the feeling of utter embarrassment and resignation I felt on the final whistle, again it wasn´t only the result that was getting me down. Nor was it purely down to an irrepressible urge to poison Almunia´s Powerade. It was in fact due to the realisation that was now dawning. That was it. For two weeks, that was now it. Though I did not yet know the next two weeks would often be spent on the internet in between moments of sunburn recuperation, they would nevertheless be largely void of Arsenal. Yeah, I would maybe read a few articles or see a few clips (or as it goes listen to old and no longer relevant Tuesday Club podcasts - that´s what it´s come to), but I wouldn´t have that matchday feeling, however diluted, for another two weeks. And even then, how sure could I be that I would see the match. In light of this ominous realisation, the next day I was compelled to scour the internet for post match reaction. It was painful. But painfully satisfying.

That feeling of comfort and assuredness I get when I glance at that little red, gold-cannon embroidered wallet on my desk at home, that feeling of security and routine, is missing here. Adventure and uncertainty are temporary replacements, emotions I attempt to cultivate, yet ones that, if I’m being honest, aren’t at the forefront of my persona. I’ve been told to immerse myself. Forget Arsenal, forget home, some have said. But how can I? How can I truly hop into a 1950´s Chevrolet and zoom around the manic streets of Havana when in the back of my mind I´m worrying about the finger of a man whose name I cant even pronounce. It´s a familiar tale. The obsession of football fandom. But then again, I wouldn´t change it for the world.

Ooh to, ooh to be...

30th March 2011 09:00:00

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Comments and Reaction

User comments on this article are now closed. If you want to continue the debate, why not do so on the Gooner Forum.

king gooner  12:12pm 30th Mar 2011

yep,it's a drug-we must be massochists!! - Post No. 4619


Theopants Superstar.  12:55pm 30th Mar 2011

Excellent read. - Post No. 4622


HowardL  21:18pm 30th Mar 2011

I have to make do with Costa Coffee - Post No. 4644


Judith Chalmers  21:38pm 30th Mar 2011

So you like going on Holiday and supporting Arsenal? Pretty unique interests you've got there. Next week I'm going to do a similar report on Blackpools sunny seafront! - Post No. 4645


GaryFootscrayAustralia  23:10pm 30th Mar 2011

A choice between watching Almunia & Squillaci in the cold, or those two in the photo on a Carribean beach....no contest whatsoever (and I'm not choosing the Out-there Brothers before you jump in, smartarses!) - Post No. 4648


lil  16:05pm 1st Apr 2011

wow a great article so colourful and funny. i can relate to being away from something i love so much! - Post No. 4696


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