The Story of Highbury: The Arsenal Supporters Club in India behind the viral video 'Indian Gooner'

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A trending music video by a debutant artist was shared by Arsenal on their official Facebook page and Goal wanted to know about its origin...

Football clubs don't normally share videos or posts created by their fan groups. But one of the most followed football clubs in the world, Arsenal, recently shared a rap music video put together by an officially registered fan group which is now trending on social media. The rap, which told the story of the club and the life of a dedicated Arsenal fan, is by Mr.Spin, a young debutant in the field and his Gooner friends from Arsenal Supporters Club Kerala.

 

The video is titled 'Indian Gooner' and has been filmed at multiple districts across Kerala, the south-western state of India. The word 'Gooner', in modern diction, means 'supporter of Arsenal football club' and the team behind the now viral video are all proud Indian Gooners who, quite incredibly,  have their own place to watch matches and celebrate the Gunner way of life. They have named it 'Highbury', after the famous former home ground of the club that they so ardently support. 

The 'Highbury' is covered in all things Arsenal. The place is cosy and comfortable, set up perfectly for watching football games.

Arsenal Supporters Club Kerala

'Highbury' is owned by a Thrissur-based businessman who prefers to remain anonymous. The place kicked into life early this year in February and has also been rented to host screenings of the games of Manchester United and Real Madrid. Arsenal football club occasionally sends them official merchandise and the latest package from the club arrived when they lifted the FA Cup in May.

Sivachand Chandran, the secretary of Arsenal Supporters Club Kerala, was the first to speak up in a face-to-face exchange organised exclusively for Goal. 

"A Facebook group named 'Arsenal Fans Kerala' was our beginning. We started with a screening in Kochi in 2010." said Sivachand from Thrissur. The man in mid-20s is a practitioner of Physiotherapy and has been following the club since his high school days.

"I wasn't a member at that time. I joined a few years later. The reason for such an initiative in Thrissur is because I did not know any Gooner from around here. Back when I started supporting, I thought I was the only Arsenal supporter in the district." he exclaimed.

"What we have now is an output of dedicated teamwork. There were a few people from Thrissur, Calicut in the team that started this."

Arsenal Supporters Club Kerala

These Gooners are not just a crazy group of football lovers but also an official fan-group representative of Arsenal Football Club. It is not often that a supporters' club gets recognized in the name of the state but getting registered, as the secretary says, wasn't easy.

"We got in touch with the club during the year in which we won the FA Cup after the trophyless period. We got in touch with Mark Brindle, who is the liaison officer at Arsenal. He is the one who takes care of matters regarding supporters' clubs. His rapport with the fan groups is really good. We asked him about registering our group and he told us all about the formalities necessary for doing so."

"We needed 50 registered members and that is a club requirement. At that time, it was really difficult to get an official membership for supporters' groups."

These football-crazy youngsters have been putting in excellent performances off the field too. The fact that they are a socially responsible bunch sets them apart.

"Arsenal supporters' groups are not just about watching the matches" said Sivachand. "They need to be beneficial to the society too. We had recently visited an orphanage in Kottayam where we spent a day and provided them with necessities. It's not just about screenings." 

Arsenal Supporters Club Kerala

The Gooners attending match screenings range from 9-year-old kids to middle-aged super dads. These fans are also various professionals from different fields of work and that is how they came across Siddharth Madathilkatt (aka Mr.Spin), who works as an assistant manager in a multi-national company.

"Siddharth had been speaking to us about this initiative. I've only known him for about six months but when I heard the audio, it was really good." revealed Sivachand.

'Indian Gooner' is Mr.Spin's first creative work in the field of music and despite having the option of choosing a topic from the quintillion options available in front of him, the proud Gooner opted to rap about his favourite football club.

"Arsenal performed poorly last season. So we wanted to raise the image of Arsenal Football Club in our minds." said Siddharth. "And I was also planning to start a career as a rapper. So it was the right time to dedicate this to Arsenal and their supporters. This is my first music video."

Every single cast and crew member involved in the video is an Arsenal Supporters Club Kerala member and as the director of 'Indian Gooner' Charles Raj puts it, it is a result of team work and friendship. 

Charles, who works as the CEO for various companies, had no qualms about the roles assigned to different members of the group. Fellow Gooner Balu Sadasivan is the artist behind the sketches that you see in the video while Thrissur-based Gremin worked on the camera angles.

"We get to know each other through this football community and hence knew who can provide what all creative inputs for the video." spoke Charles. "We knew that Balu can draw so the sketch that you see at the beginning of the video is by him. Gremin is a good photographer so he took the shots of Thrissur that you see in the video. Siddharth sings, obviously!"

"He [Mr.Spin] brought us all together, saying we can do this. We shot in Thrissur and Kochi within a weekend, exactly 7 days before the start to the Premier League season."

The group wanted to somehow get the club to take note of their work. The odds were stacked against them but they refused to give up. Being the hard-core supporters they are, they got the club to notice their effort and the latest golden feather in their cap was when it was posted on Arsenal's official Facebook page for the whole world to see.

"This is a dedication to Arsenal so our dream was to get the club to notice this. And they did. We sent this to the club's communication team and the word they used to describe this video was 'awesome'. Later that night, they shared it on their page. " revealed a jubilant Charles.

Arsenal Supporters Club Kerala

Not everything has been going according to plan at Arsenal Football Club but these Gooners are with the club through thick and thin. Whether it is the situation with Arsene Wenger or the one where they have consistently succumbed to defeat when under pressure in recent seasons, these are Gooners for life.

"We are with the club. If the club makes a decision, we are with them. We have mentioned it in the song too" stated Charles.

"What's noticeable about Mr.Spin's lyrics is that it doesn't hurt the sentiments of any rival fan. He just tried to connect with the journey of an Arsenal fan. That is why I think it got such a good reception." opined Dexel Sequeira, one of the many Gooner-participants in the music video.

Life as an Arsenal fan can be an emotional roller-coaster ride but it's easier when you watch the games with fellow fans.

"I used to watch games alone, at home. But now, after weeks of watching games together with these fellow Gooners, watching games at home isn't satisfactory anymore." said Sivachand.

"Arsenal games are mostly edge of the seat affairs. So it's great to have people to share the emotions with. This is friendship. More than as Arsenal fans, we have socialized as friends."

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Sandeep Raveendran summed it up perfectly when he said, "I started watching from the 2002/2003 season. Henry and Pires were the popular players who caught my eye back then. We fell for the attacking brand of football that Arsenal play."

As the introduction before the hook in Mr.Spin's rap puts it, 'This is Arsenal Kerala, from the south-west, loud part of India. Showing some love for the boys in London, hip-hop style'.

Follow Nisanth V Easwar on  Twitter - @niktheblue94

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