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1405 Ben Sawyer Blvd Ste 103
Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464
USA

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Random ramblings about Arsenal. 

Filtering by Tag: Charleston

Charsenal Year In Review 2013

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2013 was a very eventful year for Charsenal. Match day attendance numbers and our online presence continued to grow - we hit over 200 Facebook Likes and more than 400 Twitter Followers! We welcomed many visitors from supporters groups across the country and some Gooners tracked us down from as far away as the UK and Germany. A small group of us even made the trek to London in March for Arsenal’s 4-1 win over Reading. It was an amazing experience and also an opportunity to represent Charleston and its devoted U.S. Gooners.

A Charsenal identity really began to emerge this year. Camaraderie among Gooners strengthened and we became known as a supporters club where visitors are greeted with a warm welcome and cold pint. There is certainly a group core, but each match brings new faces that we applaud upon arrival. When Charsenal was formed in 2011 we sought to unite Charleston Gooners to enjoy matches together rather than scattered around town or in our homes and to ultimately grow Arsenal support in the US. Looking back over this past year, it’s safe to say that we are well on our way.

The 12/13 season finished with silverware for our branch, if not for our club: one of our members rounded out the campaign at the top of Madra Rua's Fantasy Premier League group. Thanks to the pub's generosity, a brand new 12/14 home top was awarded to our champion, who wasted no time in going out on top by hanging up his fantasy boots.

Our branch was presented with another trophy-winning opportunity at the end of June and beginning of July courtesy of an All-Time Arsenal XI Draft hosted by Arsenal America. Branch leadership from Austin, Boston, Baltimore, Charlotte, Jackson, Jacksonville, Kentucky, Nashville, New Haven, Orange County, and San Diego took turns drafting in their starting XIs, bench, and managers from a pool comprised of every Arsenal player or gaffer in history. Charsenal opted to field a 4-4-2 managed by Arsene Wenger and featuring Jens Lehmann between the sticks; Wilf Copping, Per Mertesacker, Steve Bould, and Alf Baker across the back line; Brian Marwood, Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta, and Theo Walcott in the middle; with Kanu and (in a clever twist) Kelly Smith spearheading our attack. Our super subs were John Jensen, Pascal Cygan, and Steve Morrow. Visitors to Arsenal America's website voted with the handbrake on, though, as our entry was roundly trounced by those of Boston and Orange County. Despite this, the draft was a massive amount of fun and allowed members of supporters branches across the country to interact with and get to know one another. Top quality exercise from Arsenal America that ought to be revisited for the next off season.

A short but agonizing wait after the draft brought us to the preseason and the beginning of a stellar partnership with Local 616, a new bar in downtown Charleston. Dwayne Mitchell (he pours what he wants!), its proprieter and a fellow Gooner, opened his doors in time for us to take in the Emirates Cup match against Napoli. The potential of having our own, permanent home after years of bar-hopping was immediately tantalizing and the atmosphere that Dwayne sought to create at Local 616 was irresistable. The members who attended that match viewing came away feeling even more excited for the start of our next league campaign.

And then Aston Villa came to town and humbled us on opening day. As thoroughly rended as our garments were at the time, the less written about that debacle at this point the better. The more important focus now is how the club responded to such a sucker punch. Having played 29 matches in all competitions so far this season, Arsenal has amassed an overall record of 20-6-3, including 12 clean sheets. What a turnaround! Highlights of the season thus far include blanking Fenerbahce home-and-away, embarassing our lilywhite neighbors on the day they sold their best player, which facilitated our signing of Mesut Özil (more in a minute), completely dominating Napoli, Jack scoring *that* goal against Norwich, packing the pub against a contained Liverpool (by far our best attended match this campaign), and beating Borussia Dortmund at their home fortress. Though we crashed out of the league cup against Chelsea we are still challenging for silverware on three fronts. I think in the past years of frustration that's ultimately what all of us wanted - to challenge.

Toward that goal of challenging, our club pulled off what was inarguably the transfer coup of the window by signing Mesut Özil. One of the best number 10s in the world, Özil instantly improved both the skill and spirits of the team while spawning a cottage industry of umlaut-laden accoutrement. Bringing Mesut (and Flamini, for that matter) into the squad was a clear statement of intent that is further backed up by our league position as 2013 winds down: first.

Speaking of firsts, our supporters branch experienced many firsts during this half of the season. CHSSoccer.net, a local site for all things football, interviewed our branch leadership for a great write-up posted in May, giving us some of our first local exposure. We went international in August when we were featured on Arsenal.com, including pictures and a full bio write-up, which yielded immeasurable smiles and high fives around Charsenal HQ. Both Arsenal Review USA and the Triangle Gooners were kind enough to treat some of our members to their first podcast experiences. We unleashed our first Charsenal t-shirts on the world in October and quickly sold out of our initial stock. At Thanksgiving time we welcomed our first Gunner to Local 616 as Danny Karbassiyoon joined in the fun of watching a match, which was a genuine treat.

2013 will undoubtedly go down as a turning point for this group, as it also will for our beloved Arsenal. This year has been so many things for us. Humbling. Frustrating. Creative. Progressive. Expansive. Entertaining. Captivating. The plain fact is that this year for our supporters club would not have been nearly as good without the dilligent and loving support from our members and those of other supporters clubs around the nation; the patience and good nature of our families; the football culture that is being nurtured in Charleston; the home that is Local 616 and the hospitality of Dwayne Mitchell; and the tireless work of our branch leadership. We are extremely grateful for your support and could not have come this far without your help. Many friendships have been gained through our passion and love for The Arsenal. They help everyone to celebrate the good times and provide support during rough ones. We at Charsenal are damn proud of this. We cannot wait to see what 2014 brings. Up the Arsenal!

~ Travis & Stan

Local Til I Die

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While our branch works on its year/half-season in review entry (look for it here in the next couple of weeks), I wanted to take some time and post about our match day experience.

Surely there are some of you who are trepidatious about making the trip out to Local 616 on the day of a match because you’re not sure you’d fit in or dig the scene. You may have friends who support the teams that Arsenal are playing against and are concerned about bringing them to an “Arsenal bar”. Others of you may need a little bit of a nudge to escape the gravitational pull of your couch and remote control when 10am rolls around. Perhaps you don’t feel “hardcore” enough to come for every match and only attend intermittently. If you’ll indulge me, I’d like to address each of those points and try to convince you to make watching a match with Charsenal a priority.

While a lot of us like to create a boisterous, rowdy atmosphere on match days, the one word above all others I would use to describe our group would be: friendly. The leadership of our branch mills around to introduce ourselves and make introductions between Gooners. We enjoy applauding anyone who walks through the door wearing our beloved red and white to help them feel welcome. Lasting friendships get formed through the 2 hours every week we have together during a match. Fans who have been supporting for decades intermingle with folks who barely know their Giroud from their Djourou. Simple songs get sung in the hopes that the entire bar will join in. There’s an electricity in the air when the pub is packed and we like to foster that feeling as often as possible.

Here’s the thing: we’re not friendly to you only because you have a cannon on your chest. Make no mistake, part of the reason why Local 616 is our bar of choice is because the proprietor is a Gooner. More than being our Arsenal bar, though, Local 616 encourages fans of every stripe to visit. We routinely welcome opposing supporters. Our best-attended match of the season to this point was the one against Liverpool and about a quarter of the attendees were Scousers. Things remained civil and cordial, we had some laughs, and nobody that I am aware of came away from that day frustrated with the experience (though the scoreline may’ve been a different story for them!). Ultimately a bar full of committed, good-natured supporters (regardless of the color of your shirt) contributes to an incredible match viewing experience. We’ll strive to not harass you for wearing the opposing colors if you repay the kindness and we all just might have an enjoyable time for it. Unless you support Tottenham.

So here’s another scenario: it’s 7:15am (or even 9:30am) on a match day morning. 30 minutes to kick off and your alarm is ringing. You had quite a night and you feel like Han Solo frozen in your carbonite bed. Even if you can bring yourself to roll out, thanks to NBC’s acquisition of the EPL rights you can tumble right onto your comfortable couch and flip on the game. Why should you forsake this convenience to hit the showers, pull on your replica shirt, and come out to Local 616? If you think about the match as a movie, what you’re missing by not coming out to a match is sort of like the behind-the-scenes extras. I feel my knowledge about the club (and the sport) has increased dramatically since becoming a match day regular, which has only fed my passion for the team. Spirited debates about team selection and tactics happen frequently. Wisecracks are mandatory. We all start using a common vocabulary and foster little in-jokes. Honestly, you’ll never cheer more loudly or have a bigger rush (outside of being there live) when that game-winning goal goes in than you will when you’re with a group of your peers. That sort of experience won’t happen from your couch.

Showing up for match days becomes part of your routine if you let it, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. There’s a temptation to only come for the “big" games, which tend to be the matches that will attract a larger than normal turn out anyway. When it comes right down to it, though, *every* match is a big match. With only 38 games in a league season, each of those points is vital. 3 points off Crystal Palace are worth the same as 3 points off Liverpool. Each cup tie or Champions League match could be pivotal. One of the most enjoyable matches I watched this season was our dismantling of Norwich, featuring *those* goals from Jack and Rambo. Did you miss seeing it on the projector at Local 616 because you didn’t think it would be worth showing up for a relatively assured victory at the Emirates against the Canaries?

I’m sure this isn’t unique to Charleston, but there’s a sentiment in our city that we should be loyal to our local establishments. We as Gooners here are fortunate to have a place to call our own in Local 616, with an owner/operator who is focused on growing with our supporters branch to be a football destination for the downtown area. The best way we have to repay his loyalty is with our own loyalty and steady patronage. The better our attendance and the more regularly we can fill up the pub, the easier it will be to have drink specials, giveaways, and special events. Things like that will only lead to more people coming out. Can you imagine 50 or 100 people roaring at goal after goal, every match?

This post is not trying to make you feel guilty for not showing up match-in, match-out, though. I’m a new father and try as I might, my family and fixture schedule don’t always conveniently align. Maybe it’s a trip too far for you to drive downtown. Life gets in the way sometimes and that is perfectly okay. When everything falls in to place, however, I make watching a match with my fellow Charleston Gooners a priority because I’ve learned through repeated experience that it is by far the best way for me to enjoy the beautiful game aside from a trip to London.

I hope that if you haven’t watched a match with us previously or have only been able to tag in occasionally that you’ll take some time in the festive season of 2013 and resolve in 2014 to join us. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.