I recently attended Kalamazoo’s first events of the 2015 festival season: Greek Fest, and the Art Fest along with the monthly Art Hop. As expected, I had a great time enjoying the sights, sounds, and foods as I took in all that what was going on around me. But, over the course of the day, I encountered three individuals with whom I had three very different interactions, and it was all because I wore my blue Arsenal “third jersey.”
The home colors for Arsenal Football Club (AFC) are red and white, while the away colors are blue and yellow. And then there are the “third” jerseys, which are a combination of blue and light blue diagonal stripes, with thin green accent stripes. Some fans like them, some don’t. I belong to the former.
Anyway, I was wearing my third jersey as I strolled through the Kalamazoo Art Fair, and one of the first art vendors I encountered complimented me. Turns out he is a fan of european soccer and while he enjoys Arsenal, he prefers to follow Barcelona in the Champions League. He commented on how much he was looking forward to the big match (which Barcelona ended up winning) as well as the upcoming women’s World Cup tournament. It was at this point that the conversation took a turn.
“Plus,” he added, “every last one of them is smokin’ hot! I mean, is it a prerequisite to play women’s soccer that you have to be good AND be gorgeous? Only way to make the game better is if they stopped wearing sports bras!”
It only went downhill from there.
Next there was the twenty-something young man who was working as a “guard” at a parking lot of one of downtown’s many bar/restaurants. His job this day was to make sure only patrons used their lot, and not festival goers looking to get a choice spot near the festival grounds. He noticed my shirt and shouted, “Hey, Gunner, love the jersey!” I thanked him, and we talked briefly. Turns out his dad is from north London, and is a *huge* Arsenal fan. To the point that his license plate apparently reads: GUNNER. (for those reading who may not be aware, the term “gunner” refers to the cannon in the Arsenal crest and logo)
Lastly, and by far the best interaction brought on by my jersey was when I stepped into a quaint little shop on the mall – a shop which didn’t exist when last I lived here, so I was eager to check it out.
The young woman behind the counter was perhaps 22, 24 at the very most. She spotted the team sponsor’s “Fly Emirates” logo on the front of my jersey, and grinned. “I like your jersey,” she said, and began to tell me of her time spent in Dubai, Abu Dabi, and Istanbul. While I enjoyed listening her talk of her experiences with such passion, what I enjoyed most was her answer when I asked if she planned to go back to visit any time soon.
“No,” she said plainly, almost without any inflection. But not because of politics or perceived heightened danger when traveling to certain areas of the globe. Rather, she added “I’ve been there, you know? I lived there for a few months, and got to experience what they have to offer, and now I want to experience other regions.”
Turns out she already has a plan in the works to travel to Japan and Thailand very soon, and has some other places on her list as well.
I was thoroughly impressed by this young lady, and wished her the best in her adventures. I also wish more of us could be like her, and am glad that our paths crossed. We shall see what kind of conversations my jersey stir up the next time I wear it.