Who is a Gooner?
A Gooner is someone who supports the Arsenal football club. And more. A Gooner is someone who has dedicated his/her being to the club and its principles. So a true Gooner is for life. A Gooner’s loyalty lies more in the club’s defeats than in its wins. It takes an admirable amount of faith to be an Arsenal fan. But a Gooner shows up no matter what. In a match. And in life.
I read a line somewhere that sums up a true football club supporter best – You can change your wife but you can never change your football club. It’s not a joke.
They say it’s difficult to please a Gooner. So when it comes to selecting the perfect birthday gift, you need to get a little creative. Now I’m someone whose creativity ends on the paper. Truth is, I suck at picking thoughtful birthday gifts. Tathagata’s low expectations have been my saviour so far.
Needless to say, I’ve done a lot of research, read a lot of blogs and what not and here’s what I found – there aren’t much unusual ideas on the Internet. So on Tathagata’s first birthday after the wedding, I settled for the safest option. Safest and farthest from anything related to Arsenal – The Tintin Collection.
A year later, I managed to see some light. Arsenal merchandise. Another year has passed and I’m getting better. But it has taken a lot of brainstorming to get here.
I’m sure that there are a lot of people who are stuck like me. It’s a tight spot. So I’m going to get you out of there with some ideas that my two and a half years of extensive research and a little help from Tathagata has yielded. Hang in, there.
1. Merchandise – I’m going to say it. If you are new to the football club fraternity, merchandise is going to be your saviour. This goes for any football club supporter. There are tons of FC merchandise out there for you to choose from. In fact, you can survive only on merchandise for a lifetime! Kits alone can save your day. You can also personalize certain products to include names etc. For Tathagata’s second birthday after our wedding, I picked out a hooded sweatshirt, a scarf and a watch from the Arsenal official store.
Before you hop on to the website and start ordering, you would need to know this – If you are in India, getting products shipped directly from England is going to be a bit of a headache. First of all it took over a month for the products to reach the country and for about a week or so during this time, there was no update about where the package was. I was almost sure that it was lost in transit and I would never see it again. And then when it finally reached my nearest post office, the staff refused to cooperate even though I could see the box sitting there. After a couple of visits, I was asked to deposit a 42% customs charge to retrieve the package. This was a non-invoiced transaction. I was so sure that the package was damaged that I made a video of unboxing it just so that I have proof if I need to raise a complaint. Thankfully, the products were ok and brought out the most awaited smile on Tathagata’s face. So yeah, it was an ordeal but it was worth it.
Some of my top picks of Arsenal merch:
- Passport holder & luggage tag
- Key ring and badge
- Highbury stadium sign – can be hung on a door
- Gunnersaurus pillow
- Pen case
- Thermos mug
- Red tie
2. Books – This year, the Arsene Wenger autobiography, “My Life in Red & White” released just in time for Tathagata’s birthday. A bonus with it was a pass to the live interview with Arsene Wenger right before the book launch.
Some of Tathagata’s picks:
- Stillness and Speed – Dennis Bergkamp
- Sober: Football, My Story, My Life – Tony Adams
- Arsenal: Official History – Phil Soar and Martin Tyler
You can also opt for audio books.
3. Birthday Letter – This one I found out by chance. You can actually get a letter signed by the manager in Arsenal letterhead with your name on it wishing you a happy birthday! This letter gets delivered directly to your address (or that’s what I’ve been told by the Arsenal staff). But there’s a catch. The birthday needs to be a landmark one. For example, 18, 20, 30 etc. This is what I had initially planned for Tathagata’s birthday this year. But since he’s turning 34, I’d have to try this in another six years.
Here’s what you need to do: Send an Email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your request and they would get back to you for your address and contact details.
4. Supporters’ Club Membership – Any football club supporter is about 90% likely to be already associated with a supporter’s club. Since Tathagata lived in Pune for a substantial part of his life, he is a member of Arsenal Pune Supporters’ Club (APSC). Actually, he’s one of the core members. They have arrange regular match screenings. I have been to two screenings hosted by the Kolkata supporters’ club and it felt fantastic! It was as close as it gets to watching the match from the stadium. There are numerous events organized by the clubs. Even charitable ones. And then there are some cool yearly merchandise that these clubs arrange for their members. Tathagata has also been invited to speak in webinars as a representative of APSC. So it’s a fun thing to be a part of a club.
How do you find a supporters’ club? They generally have dedicated websites which is just a Google search away. Here’s APSC’s website.
5. Gift Card – This is one of the safest and easiest options.
6. Photographs & Prints – Arsenal has some iconic moments on and off the pitch that have thankfully been photographed. If your budget permits it, you can even get a signed copy.
7. Themed Birthday Cake – Everyone loves this! But cutting into the “Arsenal” writing probably hurts a little.
Having said that, I think the best gift for an Arsenal fan is to see the club win. Against all odds. Since I cannot make that happen, the above ones come close.
Related read: What do the Arsenal and I Have in Common?