In Part I, it was discussed how India in particular, was a special case with respect to how Arsenal and on a larger scale, football as a sport is perceived – but also showed that the sport is growing exponentially in terms of popularity, and is showing no signs of stopping any time soon.
In Part II, the claim that all Indian supporters were bandwagon supporters was wrongly construed, and explained how fans did their bit to support Arsenal – whether it be through merchandise, or staying up at odd hours on weekdays to watch UEFA Champions League games.
In Part III, the quintessential example of how die-hard Indian Arsenal supporters can get crazy about Arsenal was described, in addition to discussing how India is a growing market for football, how supporter groups are popping up in various cities in India, and finally, how India’s population suffers a lack of exposure to the sport through mainstream media such as newspapers and magazines.
Many interesting topics of conversation came about as I discussed Part II with my friends One important point that was brought up was the accusation of a majority of Indian fans buying fake merchandise only, and therefore do not contribute to Arsenal’s international brand.
Assuming this were the case, it would be plausible to say that all Indian fans of clubs in the UK and Europe in general would buy fake merchandise, therefore not contributing to Nike’s profits (or Adidas’ in the case of certain clubs) – and thereby not contributing to increasing the value of the contracts handed out to these clubs based on their global reach and appeal.
There would be no reason for only Indian Arsenal fans to buy fake merchandise, in comparison to, for example, Indian Manchester United fans. This is taking into consideration the fact that beyond our affiliations to different clubs, we are not so different as people that more likely than not share similar interests.
However, Nike has stores all over India – from the big metropolitan cities of New Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore, to smaller cities such as Kota, Rajkot, Gwalior and even Belgaum – all towns that are not extremely big in comparison to the former three and a few others. It is clear that they are aware of the fact that India is a huge market for Nike, which is why they have invested into expanding their reach.
It would be silly to do so if they were not selling enough merchandise – and thereby, this means that people are almost certainly buying Nike merchandise. That being said, it would be foolish to assume that this group of people that are buying official merchandise do not include Arsenal fans.
This is not to say that no fake merchandise is sold in India – it is, and in sizable numbers. But that does not take away from the fact that Nike is selling plenty of merchandise in India.
Sure, there are plenty of people who may not be able to afford a jersey that costs 2750 rupees and more (who wouldn’t want to pay as much for a jersey anyway), but again, do not discount the die hard fans who will shell out enough to wear the “official” merchandise of Arsenal FC.
It would not be inaccurate to say that most (if not all) die-hard Arsenal fans are spending their money on official merchandise, and not fake merchandise.
It all comes down to a dream….
To conclude, it is rather evident that for Arsenal fans in India, it eventually all boils down to a dream. A dream to travel to England, to travel to London, and to watch Arsenal play at the Ashburton Grove.
Ask any set of Arsenal fans about their top dream travel destinations, and there’s a good chance that London will be up there on the top of that list – and if that is the case, it is even more likely that Arsenal had a huge role to play in making that decision.
Again, while people can complain that international fans are not ‘real fans’, a section of the aforementioned people who realize their dreams of making it to the Emirates who contribute to the UK’s economy through the tourism industry.
They’re helping your economy. It would be wise to welcome them with open arms to bring them, along with more fans, back to the Emirates.
People dream of walking down the streets of London to the Emirates, chanting their way through, yelling in a stadium as one with 60,000 supporters. I know Indian supporters who have watched this brilliant video and said, “That’ll be me one day.”
…a dream that is realized by some.
But as the Indian middle class get progressively richer, and has more money to spend, certain fans find their way to London, and eventually do realize their dream.
People pick London over other cities to study abroad where Arsenal FC has proven to be the deciding factor over other cities that offer education of similar levels of quality. People look for jobs in London, just because of Arsenal FC. People spend money that they’ve saved patiently over many months (sometimes years, even) to go to the Emirates to watch Arsenal play.
A lot of people in the UK have embraced the fact that Arsenal means a lot to not only people in England. These are people that have understood what the club means to people – all over the world. But there are still small sets of people who do not subscribe to this view for reasons mentioned on multiple occasions in this piece.
To them it must be said; try to stop living in the past. Things have changed over the years, and the true reach of this club is absolutely astounding.
Look at the positives – look at how incredibly huge Arsenal’s reach is across the world. There are few brands around the world that have impacted so many people across the globe – so take a good hard look at what an international fan-base has to offer to the club, your city, and your country.
You can be in denial if you want to – but clearly, this club, and this family of die-hard Gooners is much larger than you think it is.