How Arsenal and Tottenham fans secretly cherish each other
The doors to the tube slid open at Caledonian Road station and two relatively young-looking gentlemen stepped into the car.
A friend and I sat opposite the doors on two priority seats, wrapped in our Arsenal scarves, and with miserable expressions etched across our faces. Having just witnessed one of Arsenal’s most lethargic, lifeless performances of the season at home to Monaco, we weren’t in the mood to discuss football.
The two men, who will remain unnamed, walked slowly towards us and initiated some generic footballing conversation. Unenthusiastic, though we were, we wanted to be polite and humour the newest members of our train.
“What was the score tonight lads?” asked one of the men inquisitively.
“3-1 Monaco. Awful game”, came my friend’s reply. At that point we could only blindly assume that the two men with whom were talking were two of us...Arsenal fans. Oh how wrong we were.
The second bloke, who had opted for silence until his confidence emerged, unzipped his jacket to reveal this season’s replica home Tottenham Hotspur jersey. We took a look the shirt in unison before sniggering and nodding dejectedly. The men were Spurs fans, and only wanted a laugh at our own expense, having seen the red and white of our scarves.
“Fair enough”, I thought to myself, and laughed weakly. The incident, small in and insignificant in its own right, actually made me think somewhat. It brought some much-needed light and clarity to a rivalry that I’ve only ever experienced from one, biased perspective beforehand.
For Arsenal and Spurs need each other. They engage in banter at work, at the games, on the train and even at home. It is a rivalry which is so deeply ingrained into English footballing culture that imagining the Premier League without a North London derby is almost impossible.
Let me hit you with this from another, more interesting angle.
As an Arsenal fan, if I had the power to relegate Tottenham Hotspur, I absolutely, unequivocally would NOT. It’s a strange thing to consider, as a rival, but in many ways I have huge admiration and respect for Tottenham and their fans.
Those that have ever been to a North London derby in their lifetime will know exactly what I mean when I say that it is an extremely special occasion. Known not only as one of England’s most iconic and longest-running rivalries, it is also an event befitting of only Arsenal’s and Tottenham’s most passionate supporters.
No matter the ground, be it White Hart Lane, Highbury or The Emirates, you can expect to hear only the most ear-numbing and spectacular of atmospheres from both sets of fans. Emotional, provocative chanting mixed with the biting of nails and seas of red and white make the North London derby a highly sentimental and enjoyable affair to behold.
If you are an Arsenal or Tottenham fan, ask yourself this one question; what does our North London rivalry mean to you?
I know for a fact that from my viewpoint, it is something to be cherished, and I appreciate and applaud every player (both from Arsenal and Tottenham) that has played in the past and the present to help make the feud what it is today.
As Arsene Wenger famously said; “Football is a feast. It is a place where people come together to be happy”, and that’s exactly it. Being a ‘gooner’ would, without doubt, be less interesting and fruitful were it not for the existence of our long-time enemies; our partners in crime in Tottenham Hotspur, the black to our white... the cold to our hot.
I mean, when you really think about it, sport thrives off of rivalry. The media love it, the players eat it up and the fans rejoice in it. Arsenal need Tottenham like Harry Potter needed Voldemort, like Captain Price needed Makarov or like Hulk Hogan needed Andre The Giant.
Football is an art, but it also tells a story, and is perhaps the world’s most iconic way of bringing people together. In the most endearing and accidental of ways, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur are absolutely a crucial part of each club’s identity.
And then there is social media.
Twitter is quickly becoming this generation’s prime source of news content, discussion and social interaction. The banter and camaraderie that takes place on match days on the average Twitter timeline can be described in many ways, with words like ‘aggressive’, ‘passionate’ and ‘relentless’ coming the closest to painting a nice picture.
Without some of football’s historic derbies, rivalries or competition, fan reaction via social media wouldn’t have the feel that makes Twitter, Facebook or Instagram so worth-while nowadays. It really is entertaining.
Furthermore, rivalry and competition gives a person (be it in sport or otherwise) a sense of identity, and a sense of belonging. When I am walking from Arsenal tube station to the Clock End at home fixtures, I feel like I have found a place in which I belong.
It is a somewhat special feeling to be surrounded by people with whom you share one major commonality. It gives one a sense of pride, being able to walk into a football stadium, especially on North London derby day, and show support both vocally or visually for the team that stole one’s heart.
So, when everything is all said and done, Arsenal and Tottenham fans must remember one thing. Despite our differences, we are all in this together. Despite the fact that we loathe the other’s team, and would love nothing more than to demolish the other in the league, we are united in a special way.
For Arsenal and Tottenham go hand in hand in a way uncommon from many other football clubs. We may hate one-another, but there must always remain that foundation of respect and tolerance between two such iconic football clubs.
On a personal level, I have nothing but total and utter contempt for Tottenham Hotspur... but they are my rival and I wouldn’t change them for the world.