When I first got accepted into Penn, I was of course thrilled to bits as you would expect. After all the initial euphoria of getting into an Ivy League college died down, I had a nagging worry at the back of my mind. How would I be able to follow my favorite football club (Arsenal FC) in a country that called it soccer and worshipped the NFL? Suffice to say I was proven wrong, and for once, I was glad I was. I have been very surprised by the popularity of the game here and have met a lot of fellow football (soccer) fans in Philadelphia. To add to my surprise, I have met a lot of Arsenal fans as well, whom I now refer to as Philly Gooners — Gooners is what we Arsenal fans call ourselves. I have had quite a few curious encounters while I have roamed the streets of Philly wearing my Arsenal scarf, from being stopped on the pavement by a dad walking his baby and engaging in a short conversation about the Gunners to being ridiculed for supporting Arsenal in the local train stations.
Much to my delight, I discovered that all the Philly Gooners meet at an Irish pub in Center City called Fado to watch Arsenal games and cheer on the team they love. It may also interest you to know that the Philly Gooners are a registered Arsenal fan club. They were even featured on an episode of Gooners from afar on the official club website. I decided to go there during spring break to watch the North London derby. For those who have no idea what the North London derby is and think it’s a horse race, you’re wrong. It’s a match between Arsenal FC and Tottenham Hotspur FC, who have no love lost between them. So a couple of friends and I decided to head down there and see what it’s like. Let me tell you — it was a great experience and one which I will remember for a long time. The pub itself is very nice and spacious. The owners seemed to be big fans of Celtic FC (a Scottish football club with Irish roots and a large Irish fan base as a result), as I spotted a huge Celtic flag and a signed jersey at the entrance.
Arsenal may have lost the game, but the experience of watching the game with fellow Arsenal fans was something one can only get in the stadium itself. What made it even more exciting was the presence of Spurs fans in the same pub. Usually this would be a rather volatile situation with rival fans this close together but everyone was well behaved. Good-natured banter was shared between both sets of fans. Chants and songs were belted out by both sets of supporters and one could easily forget the fact that the match was being watched on a projector rather than at the stadium itself.
What was a real pleasant surprise was the knowledge of the fans at the pub. They were well versed in the history of the club and knew all the classic chants as well as a few new ones (“Call Me, Maybe” also made an appearance, albeit with a football twist). To be perfectly honest, this was a dream come true for me. I had always pictured myself with Gooners all around chanting and supporting the team I adore. To have achieved this was something I was very grateful for — and of all places, in America. Truly it is the land of dreams.
All I can say is if one wants an experience of watching an Arsenal game — and one worth remembering — head down to Fado Irish Pub located on 1500 Locust St.
Anchit Bhagat is a first-year master’s student at Penn.Comments powered by Disqus
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