Sing along now: “There’s only one Arsenal.”
Fans of the Gunners familiar with only the Premier League, or the top four leagues in England, might know a few teams from other countries. Mostly, this has been due to the Champions League being televised so widely. Crazed football fans may watch more games, including from the top European leagues in Spain, Italy, Germany and France but, for the most part, naming three teams in Denmark might prove to be a challenge. Unless you’re a Dane.
Big global names such as Barcelona, Real Madrid, PSG, Inter, Juventus, Milan and, thank to a certain David Beckham, the Los Angeles Galaxy, are global brands. Arsenal, of course, is a world force, with fans on every continent. No doubt there’s a village in the middle of a remote rainforest with little contact with the outside world with a child wearing an ‘Henry 14’ shirt.
But, if you delve deep into the football clubs around the world, Arsenal fans might be surprised to learn that there are rabid Arsenal supporters that don’t care about the Gunners. Doesn’t make sense? Well, if you’re from Ukraine, you could be a supporter of Arsenal Kyiv.
Based in the Ukrainian capital, this Arsenal, nicknamed the Cannoneers, plays in blue and red stripes not that dissimilar to those worn by Barcelona. This version of Arsenal Kyiv (sometimes also called Kiev) was founded in 2001; ten years after the nation gained its independence. There was a previous incarnation of the club, which played in the Soviet league system while Ukraine was part of the USSR, but the club was renamed in 1963, only to become a different team. It’s now firmly Arsenal once more.
There are certainly similarities with England. Arsenal is based in the capital, and has a strong rivalry with another club in the city, Dinamo Kyiv. Dinamo has certainly had the better of recent results and trophies. However, unthinkable in London, the two Kyiv teams share a ground, with only a 16,000-plus capacity.
London’s Gunners have a long history and a trophy cabinet filled with silverware. The Kyiv version, however, has far less to brag about. A UEFA Cup run that included a win over Red Star Belgrade, and two domestic cup final appearances are the only standout stats the club can brag about. They haven’t even had any players of major international renown in their ranks over the decades. One of the difficulties, which clubs around the world face, is competing with richer neighbours. Dinamo, and current powerhouse Shakhtar Donetsk, certainly do better than Arsenal. Currently, Arsenal sits in sixth in the table, a whopping 22 points behind Dinamo after only 20 games. Looking on the bright side, at least they aren’t bottom of the table, an honour that belongs to another team from the capital, Obolon Kiev.
A lower level Ukrainian team, FC Arsenal Kharkiv, does at least play in red and white, albeit hoops, not dissimilar to the Doncaster Rovers strip.
And in the third division in Montenegro, there’s an FK Arsenal Tivat, who play in blue and have a stadium that holds 1,000 people.
Another third division, this time in the Czech Republic, includes Arsenal Ceská Lípa, with a little longer history (founded in 1927, but never in the top flight) and a decent website with photos, video and a forum, albeit without a club shop. It’s a pity, as the shirts aren’t bad and would be quite collectible.
Coincidentally, another Arsenal was formed in 1927, with the same familiar red and white shirts; the small Serbian team, FK Arsenal Kragujevac.
While there may not be similarities in most of the eastern European Arsenals, the connection between Arsenal FC and Berekum Arsenal FC are a little more obvious. The club’s badge, and red and white strip are most definitely ‘inspired’ by the English giants. Playing in Berekum, Ghana, the club was formed in 1978, and plays at the Berekum Sports Stadium, with a capacity of 5,000. While the pitch might not match the pristine surface at the Emirates, chances are very few Berekum games are postponed due to a frozen pitch, and not too many players need to wear gloves. Except the goalie.
Berekum have gone through the lower leagues to make it to the Ghanaian Premier League, however, at the time of writing, they sit in 15th position, which would be fine in a 20-team league, but isn’t so impressive in a 16-team division.
Another African Arsenal resides in the Lesotho capital of Maseru. At least this team has a bit of history, in that Arsenal FC has won the Lesotho Premier League, in 1989, 1991 and, most recently, in 1993. And in the Mauritius Second Division, there’s an Arsenal Wanderers. That wouldn’t be a bad venue to see a game, especially in January.
In Central America, there is an Arsenal FC in Roatán, playing in the Liga Nacional de Ascenso de Honduras. It’s the equivalent of the Championship in England, only with four regional sub-divisions. The top team in the Ascenso goes up and Arsenal has been close recently, but still resides in the second flight.
Brazil, which hosts the next World Cup, even has a couple of Arsenal clubs, with Arsenal Futebol Clube being inspired by the famous Gunners, right down to the logo and shirt colour.
Another very famous Arsenal is Arsenal de Sarandí, based in Avellaneda, a part of Greater Buenos Aires. The club is currently in the top flight of Argentine football and, while they’ve not won the league, they did win the South American championship in 2007, a feat that occurred 50 years after the club was formed. The shirts are a very attractive light blue with a red diagonal stripe, and would make a great addition to a football shirt collection, especially as an Arsenal talking point. However, the club’s website, in Spanish, has a shop, with no products in it. Yet.
If you know your World Cup history, and are old enough, you may remember the 1986 World Cup Final, when Jorge Burruchaga, a former Arsenal player and, more recently coach, scored the winning goal in Argentina’s 3-2 win over West Germany. Remember two Germanys?
Of course, many countries have lower leagues that duplicate famous teams from England and Europe, so there are plenty of other, lower league Arsenal teams on every continent.
So, if you’re looking for a different team to follow in another country, following another Arsenal wouldn’t be a bad idea, although finding results might prove a bit of an issue, and finding a club shirt might be a stretch, cool though it would look in the stands at the Emirates.
If there’s anyone out there with a shirt from one of these teams, send in a photo of you wearing the shirt, so we can post it online and be jealous at the same time!