“I’m Arsenal till I Die” …

“You find that you have peace of mind and can enjoy yourself, get more sleep, and rest when you know that it was a one hundred percent effort that you gave – win or lose” – Gordie Howe.

As children and young adults – many of us have been involved in sport be it in the local team (in my case Rugby Union), playing sport at school in lunchtime or lessons, or with friends for social interaction outside of school or further education.

Sport helps us to map and understand the dynamics of relationships with other people as we are confronted by new people who’s background will vary from person to person, and the impact they will have on you and your character will also vary, but without that situation we can be altogether different people. As we mature we find the nuances of being a member of a team become more complicated and more difficult to maintain, but the competitive instinct remains.

Winning is key, and has been drilled in to young people, regardless of whether you are on your own or part of a team. It should also be noted that coaching support cannot alter this instinct because in competitive sport someone has to win and someone has to lose. There is no way of escaping this fact, and its something that I have found that this stays with you through the rest of your life, which has stayed with me into adulthood – I, like many others, hate losing and love to win.

Regardless of whether its at the weekend when my team score more than whoever they are playing that weekend, playing computer games with my friends or playing card games like Poker in tournaments or with friends. When it comes to teams, or athletes, I support I find that there is no other option than 100% loyalty.

For many football fans they will only choose a team once and that will be it for life – mine is Arsenal.

The team they support can be influenced by their parents, like a lot of my friends have, or it can be a decision of their own making, like mine was. My dad, my brother and I all support different teams – perhaps more reflective of our backgrounds than anything – Everton, Manchester United and Arsenal (respectively).

I think that the same can, and should also, be said for politics.

An increasing number of people I’ve met during my time with politics have explained that they vote the way they do because their parents wouldn’t have it any other way. Others I have known have come from existing backgrounds of party activity and chosen the opposite.

It is this background with sport and competition that leaves this kind of issue anathema to me that one would join one organisation and either leave or insult the former club they used to champion and spend money on supporting. Many Arsenal fans called for Wenger to go after Arsenal’s 8-2 loss to Manchester United and I was not one of those fans who supported their calls. Arsene was the first manager to lead an opposition side to win the Premier League title more than once, during Manchester United’s two decade period of dominance between 1990-2010, and has brought countless players to the club who have been amazing players and will go down as legends of the era – players like Henry, Anelka, Fabregas, Vieira, Kolo Toure and others.

Now in Politics members of all parties are accused by independents of being too Tribal when they are challenging opposition members in a partisan way and I wonder whether this is a bad thing? Being passionate about your club is expected. Defending your club against banter or insults from other club’s supporters is standard. You back your players and you acknowledge their record.

There’s times when I think that my club performs badly – Swansea in their 2-3 defeat and the first half of their 3-2 win over Aston Villa are two occasions of this. Their performance was just not up to scratch. These are two teams I expect our club to beat, and beat with ease, but I understand when the results don’t go our way. I don’t think we particularly played too badly against Swansea considering the scoreline but with the injuries in the key positions we have it is understandable. With Villa we should not have gone down 2 nil but I am happy that we pulled the game back and won in the end.

But should politics be a partisan sport that supporters compete in the same way that football fans do?

I think it should be, and I think that this is thanks to my experiences with sport and competition, because politics is an arena of competing ideologies even within the one person. Individuals will have a range of views that will compete each other, or at least I do, and its right that they do. Politics is also about the art of serving the people and making sure that those people within your authority (not specifically your control but your local authority as in Council or Government) are better off because of the decisions you make.

At school I remember the disdain for supporters who used to flip flop from one team to another depending on their results and others that used to change when titles changed hands; and this comes back to the ideology of competition and loyalty in sports that is anathema to me because you support and defend your club – otherwise you don’t join it.

I have written previously on my thoughts of joining a political party, likening it to a decision like marriage, that by the time you are ready to make a choice that you should be ready to commit to that party and only that party. For some they are ready, as memberships allow them, to join from an early age like 14. Some people I know didn’t join a party until they into their 40s and 50s. Some don’t even join but regardless of the colour side they support they remain an ardent supporter, and voter, of that party.

We should be willing to look at new ideas, like coaching styles and tactics, to improve our game and build consistent results but our teams should always remain the same. I’m Arsenal till I die.

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