It’s match day. I love match day.
Match day isn’t actually match day for me because I live in New Zealand. New Zealand’s grotesque geographical location means that Arsenal usually kicks off at between 2 and 7 in the morning, which means sacrifices must, at times, be made.
Tonight, for example, is Saturday night. The All Blacks—New Zealand’s national rugby union team, the current World Champions and possibly the most famous and fabled export of my country—will play our fiercest rival, Australia, at 10pm. If the All Blacks win, they will set a new world record for the most consecutive victories in international rugby’s 141-year history.
It’s 9 p.m. and I am in my pyjamas.
Emile, you’re doing it wrong.
I’m about to go to sleep, but I am excited. Fabulously excited. Wondrously excited. I am tingling with anticipation. I am pulsating. Why?
Because Arsenal plays tomorrow. It’s the end of the Interlull. When I wake up, it’ll be time. That’ll be it. Barring the ever-present possibility of Norwich experiencing a catastrophic locust invasion overnight, the next time I open my eyes, Arsenal will be about to run out onto the field for the first time in two weeks.
Two weeks! Two weeks might as well be two months—two years! Bah. Who cares? It’s match day. And that means I’ve got Match Day Fever.
Match Day Fever is a fickle disease. It’s potent, but generally elapses rapidly, affecting mainly the 24 hours immediately following the match—though, inevitably, traces of the Fever remain in the body until the next Arsenal game.
It can manifest itself in a variety of ways: nausea, ill-temperance and lethargy are all common symptoms in the event of a loss—as is an inability to concentrate, occasional involuntary loss of bowel control (generally when having surrendered a sizeable lead to mediocre opposition; 4-4 at Newcastle rings a bowel) and, most commonly in the event of a loss, nonsensical, defensive, ostentatious babbling.
In the event of a win, though...Match Day Fever becomes wonderful. It becomes breathtaking. It becomes euphoric.
It is, I imagine, the kind of individual feeling you might experience if you happened to have enough money to buy a racehorse, and you nurtured that racehorse through its foaling stages. That racehorse is now finally at a level where it is beginning to ascend to its peak as a racehorse—and every Arsenal match is a race.
Now, imagine watching that horse race and win. Your horse. Disregarding all the money and fame and celebrity of owning a winning racehorse, wouldn’t it be a wonderful feeling just to see this wonderful living creature—in whom you most certainly put enormous faith and trust—win?
That’s how I feel when Arsenal wins. I feel like throwing my arms around each player’s neck and screaming and shouting YOU DID IT YOU WON YOU WON WE WON HOORAY!!!
I’m not sure who I’m happier for—them, or me.
In rare cases, the immediate effects of Match Day Fever last for longer than the typical 24 hours. This is most prominent in the event of a sickening loss, or a glorious victory.
Examples of the former include the 8-2 loss at Old Trafford last season, the 2-1 League Cup Final loss to Birmingham City and the 2-1 loss a couple of weeks back to Ch-Ch...Chels-...
I can’t. Don’t make me.
Examples of the former, however...ohhh yes. A significantly more appetising prospect.
The 5-3 victory over Chelsea in 2011 springs to mind (heh, heh, heh).
Ah yes, of course, the 5-2 demolition of Spurs at the Emirates (mua ha ha).
Even the 3-1 triumph over West Ham last week, just because it marked Olivier Giroud’s first League goal (ho ho ho). (Self-satisfied onomatopoeia are hard to come by—when in doubt, resort to Christmas.)
Matches like these electrify me. They are like a second wind upon which I can call at will. At any time in their aftermath—sometimes even months along the track—a time of trial can be delivered from evil by a casual closing of the eyes...a delicious reliving of Theo Walcott’s hilariously effective trip-over-your-own-feet-regather-score technique...it feels like I’m eating magic. Anyway, focus, Emile!
Match Day Fever is upon me, and whether I like it or not, that means that my mood over the next 32 or so hours will be greatly dictated by the result on (my) Sunday morning. I have work tomorrow evening—I will either be in a good mood, or a quite bad mood. My co-workers will be faced with a cheerful, optimistic Emile, or a down-trodden, despondent Donovan.
It is beyond their control. It is beyond my control. It is Arsenal. The Interlull is over. We are finally playing another match. When I wake up again, they’ll be out on the field again. My team, my horse, saddling up for the race—arming their Arsenal for battle.
I have Match Day Fever. And I love it. It is nourishment, and I am starving. It is heroin, and I am Billie Holiday.
Let’s hope it’s a good hit.
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