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

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Random ramblings about Arsenal. 

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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

Across the Pond and Back Again: An Arsenal Journey

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I have seen my beloved Arsenal once before, April 27, 2010 at home to Man City. My wife and I planned to end our honeymoon in Europe at The Emirates (her idea!) and managed to get two seats in the North Bank. It was a seemingly uneventful 0-0 draw, but we don’t remember it that way. Instead, we remember the roar of crowd as our lads came out the tunnel and onto the pitch, the jeers towards Adebayor (who was sporting some ridiculous braided pigtails), and the various chants about Theo and a certain somebody who is not worth naming. Even though we enjoyed the game, it was the pregame antics that I remember most. Being shoulder to shoulder in a pub with equally passionate Arsenal fans was something that we had never really experienced. It was this feeling of belonging that led me to establish an Arsenal America branch in Charleston. And it was this experience that led me back there on Saturday.

This trip, however, was a bit different. There was no Mrs. Charsenal in arms, but instead my two mates, Adam and John. It made for cold nights in bed, but a delicious surplus of beer and fried food. In route to London we made a pit stop in Dublin. Given that this is a blog about Arsenal I will not dwell on our Irish escapade, but I should mention a few things: what they say about Dublin Guinness is undoubtedly true; it is the greatest consumable liquid on earth. (There is a difference between a good pint and the perfect pint.) And the Guinness brewery has an uncanny resemblance to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory—and like that factory it inspires a feeling of being a kid in a candy store. A fun time without a doubt, but the only thing on all of our minds in Dublin was how the weekend was going to unfold at The Emirates.   

Friday morning and the three of us are fetching a cab at 5:00am for our flight into Stansted. Flying budget airlines are great if you don’t care where you sit and can manage just one carryon. However, not providing passengers a vomit bag could have had dire consequences for those sitting near us. Luckily for them it was only an hour flight. We arrive at 9:15 with tunnel vision, find the mini cab bloke and get to Highbury. The 45 minute ride from the airport seemed a lifetime. It also didn’t help that our Bulgarian driver drove like a bat out of hell. Nonetheless, we arrived at our flat which was no less than 600ft to the Danny Fiszman Bridge. On the day’s agenda: Emirates Stadium tour. But first, smug pictures at the Arsenal letters, a couple pints at The Gunners, and some fish and chips at The Highbury Barn.

I remember the first time I walked across the now Danny Fiszman Bridge, with The Emirates bearing down on my wife and me. It certainly took our breath away and by the looks on Adam and John’s faces, I’d guess it had the same effect. But nothing could prepare me for what was around the Clock End bend, The King. As far as iconic Arsenal figures go, Thierry holds a special place in my heart. When the Premier League was first televised in the U.S. it was he who drew me in. His skill, swagger, and class ultimately turned me into a gooner.

The Emirates stadium tour was almost as highly anticipated as the game itself. And since we missed the tour back in 2010, I also did not know what to expect. Exiting the club level doors onto the stands to see that bright picture perfect green pitch was like walking out of a dark strip club on a sunny morning. I think we all stood in awe for a moment, imagining the stands full of devoted fans the next day. We sat for a good while, in somewhat of a daze, before we worked up the energy to continue on down the club level elevator and into the changing rooms. This is what I looked forward to the most; an opportunity to stand where both victory and heartache has taken place, imagining the pregame strategizing, halftime talks, and post-match celebrations. Just as we thought we had reached the apex of Arsenal induced joy, we were led through the player’s tunnel, and onto the sidelines. Looking down onto the pitch from a fan’s point of view is one thing, but looking up into the stands as that of a player produces a whole other feeling of amazement. The thought of putting one of those neon green blades of grass in our pockets was heavy on our minds. On the other hand, so was the watchful eye of the omnipresent, 250lb+ guard.

Match day and having spent most of the prior evening in The Armoury, like kids in FAO Schwarz, we were ready for the pregame antics. We surveyed all the pub options and while we wanted to try them all, we knew our focus was on the day’s events. We decided on a quick pint at The Gunners on the way to The Tollington.

Gooners seemed to congregate from about 50 or so when we first arrived to over 500 in the course of an hour. We drank, heckled at some bloke named Van something on the tele, and drank some more pints. Before we knew it, it was time for us to head towards the Emirates. Our seats were in the North Bank, center upper right above the keeper. We could see every corner of the stadium, sidelines, and players. The atmosphere in the first 10 minutes was a bit tense to say the least. We all knew the importance of this game and hoped for an early goal to put us at ease. The unlikeliest of all heroes responded to our calls. Gervinho! Wait, what?  But unfortunately, for Reading, Saturday turned out to be Gervinho’s finest performance this season.

Going into the second half the three of us felt confident. We were also hoping for more Arsenal goals since Reading’s goal was now right beneath our feet. Some fine work by Gervinho and a beautiful lob into the back of the net by Santi left us really at ease. There’s not much more to say about the other goals besides that they were much deserved. Le Situation, The Ox, Arteta, and really most of the team put in a shift and we left London with three vital points and discussions of our next trip to see The Arsenal. 

Watching Arsenal at our pub in Charleston is fantastic. We cheer and grieve with the rest of gooners. However, there seems to always be something lacking; the atmosphere at The Emirates. What we experienced on Saturday is something that can never be conveyed via media broadcast. The vibration of the stadium, off camera communication by the players, and varying chants of the fans are unfortunately masked by television commentators critiquing our lads or camera men zooming in on Wenger’s zipper malfunctions. It would make for a much more entertaining match if we could just crank the stadium up. Cheers!