What do you call someone who does the opposite of supporting their own team?
Well, yes, there is that, but this is a family blog so four-letter words are frowned upon. We need another name for them.
I was pondering this question on Saturday while watching us struggle to break down a 10 man Norwich defence (more of a parked combine harvester than a bus, really).
At this crucial time of the season, with a very real prize still to play for, you would think that the home crowd at the Emirates would really be doing its utmost to give the players extra belief and support.
And I’m sure that’s exactly what most of the fans do and did.
But watching live on the telly in North America it was depressing to hear the moans and groans start to reverberate around the ground after the first misplaced pass of the day.
Now I’m all for moans and groans in the right circumstances, but not at a home game for my beloved Arsenal.
I wasn’t the only person to pick up on this from the television coverage, as the Arsenal Arsenal comments on Saturday will attest to. However, not being there live, you always wonder whether the microphones are painting an inaccurate picture. Maybe the TV crew just happened to have plonked their sound recording kit next to the most miserable bunch of tossers in the whole ground.
But the impression of a vocal minority sowing discord was soon backed up by AA regulars who had actually been at the game. Some even described how they had felt obliged to tell the moaners to stop moaning.
But here’s the thing. I don’t believe that these fans (the moaners) are any less dedicated to the Arsenal than you or me.
Like you and me they are fans (which, let’s remind ourselves, is short for “fanatics”). I imagine they live, breathe, dream and sleep Arsenal just like we do. They almost certainly care just as much and want what the rest of us want: a successful team playing great football and winning trophies.
But where I part company with them is that I don’t accept that the term “supporters” applies to them because, in simple terms, they do not “support.”
Well, OK, they “support” in the financial meaning of the word – in that they pay for their tickets and any in-stadium purchases and merchandise and this contributes to the upkeep and running of the club. But they do not “support” the team when it’s on the field of play.
I believe that when people refer to “supporting” a football team (or any sports team) the more appropriate meaning of the verb “to support” is: “to hold up or serve as a foundation or prop for.”
When our players enter the battle, we want them to feel “supported” – that is, that they have firm foundations of good will and encouragement from the fans – foundations that are demonstrated – in the time-honoured way of football – by chants, cheers and songs.
So when some individuals in the crowd do the opposite of this, they are not “supporting” – they are, to continue the architectural/engineering analogy, “undermining” the team.
One of the dictionary definitions of “undermine” is: “to weaken or cause to collapse by removing underlying support, as by digging away or eroding the foundation.”
So that’s it: the fans who prefer moaning and groaning to supporting and cheering are The Underminers.
Sometimes the “weakening” that they cause is painfully visible. Take Gervinho. He came into the Norwich game off a few good performances. He had been scoring and assisting others to score. Perhaps crucially, those good performances had been away from the Emirates (Arsenal’s away support is, thankfully, almost entirely devoid of Underminers).
Despite his recent good form, the Emirates Underminers were on his back pretty quickly on Saturday
For the first 30 minutes or so he was by far our most potent attacking threat and created several opportunities, not least from his willingness to attack the box and take on defenders.
Most of the opportunities he created fizzled out and as each one did, the Underminers got louder and louder. Perhaps his best chance was when put through by a brilliant pass from Santi Cazorla. The Swerve took it round the Norwich ‘keeper but his touch was a bit heavy and the ball ended up going too wide for him to score. Instead he squared it along the goal line, perhaps expecting that Giroud might have bothered to anticipate such a thing.
But Giroud had not and the opportunity died amid a cacophony of Undermining. Yes, Gerv had taken a heavy touch. In the same game I saw Cazorla, Wilshere, Walcott and Podolski all also have heavy or bad touches in good positions. The latter group received some murmurs of Undermining, but nothing like the scorn heaped on poor Gervinho. No wonder the Ivorian went into his shell a little after that.
But that’s another characteristic of the Underminers: they like to have a target-du-jour on whom to heap their anger and vitriol.
I was in the ground when a clearly mentally disturbed Eboue was booed to the point of tears some years ago and substituted by Wenger as an act of human mercy. I did not boo him. I just felt sad.
Saturday’s Man of the Match – Aaron Ramsey – got his turn last season. How gratifying it see to see that he was tough enough to weather that storm and come back stronger than ever. Fabianski, Almunia, Denilson, Adebayor, Walcott and others were all targeted at different times.
What frustrates me about the Underminers is that, as I mentioned earlier, they undoubtedly want the same thing as we Supporters (namely, Arsenal success). But they can’t seem to see that their very actions help make that success less likely. I might “want” to have a hundred grand in the bank, but if I don’t get a job (or at least buy a lottery ticket) it ain’t likely to happen.
It’s counterproductive and they seem completely blind to the effect they have. I’ve seen Underminers with their kids in tow, the kids moaning and groaning and swearing at our own players just as much as their parents (Underminors?).
So what do we do about the Underminers? Have they always been there? Did they arise with the move to the new stadium? Are they a sub-section of fans who were spoilt during the good times and now feel entitled? Are they the modern-day “consumers” (rather than fans) that we keep hearing about?
Can we reason with them? Should we ban them? Thump them? Report them to the stewards for negativity below and beneath the call of duty?
I would welcome your thoughts. And it would be especially interesting to hear from some self-confessed “moaners and groaners.” Maybe you feel that what you’re doing is for the best in the long run. If so, please tell us your reasoning.
Finally I would like to include a comment that 26May made yesterday, because I think it holds a lot of truth and informs this discussion: “…the performance of our home crowd is part of the reason players of promise have sometimes laboured to do well and part of the reason why we have failed to achieve what we should have.
“I think we became a quiet crowd 20 years ago or more, other than at big matches, and quietness is something we need to accept. But the negativity, moaning and impatience has built in the last few years, and that p*sses me off more than I can express. I sometimes sit in the North Bank Lower rather than my usual East Lower, but always have to steel myself against the incessant whining of a number of the regulars there… All of that said, from where I was sitting, I didn’t think the crowd was at its worst yesterday.”