A Champions League interview with Gillian Pullen, an Arsenal fan in South Africa

Champions League 2016

An interview with Gillian Pullen, one of the admins of the “Arsenal South Africa, supporting the team for better or worse!”

Gillian first, about yourself…

I won’t claim being an Arsenal supporter since I was three. Hockey and cricket are my first loves. I played hockey from an early age and really got into cricket (watching) just prior to the World Cup in South Africa. Mike Haysman, Jack Barrister, Robin Jackman and Michael Holding provided the soundtrack as I vicariously lived my life through the Mark Boucher and Jacques Kallis bromance.

I guess it was inevitable that the soccer bug would bite and there only ever was one team and that’s my dad’s. As they say, I haven’t look back since.

You set up the Facebook page – “Arsenal South Africa, supporting the team for better or worse!” What was your motivation?

Setting the page up was actually Steven’s idea, but it didn’t take much to convince me and Cindy (Steven and Cindy are the other admins on the group). As you are well aware, there’s a lot of nastiness within the Arsenal social media space. We just wanted an escape from that negativity where we could still, as Arsenal fans, try to keep discussion civil (not the easiest thing on social media) on the merits on a game to game basis; a place where those who chose to support the team despite the ups and downs have a safe space to keep the flame burning.

Your boyfriend is a Man United fan. Weekends must be seriously interesting 

Lol. I grew up being surrounded by Liverpool and Man United supporters. So just like back then when I used to ignore them if we lost, I do the same with him. I must confess though, I do my best to get under his skin when the tables get turned. At the end of the day, allowances are made for each other having their moment to smirk – something in low supply for both teams at the moment.

The game against Bayern, what are your predictions?

It’s a tough one to call. Bayern is one of the best teams in Europe and on paper they would be the favourites. However, we are playing at the Emirates and Arsenal is a far better team then recent results suggest, so fingers crossed we get a positive result. Overturning the 4 goal deficit might be asking too much, if I’m truly honest, but a victory against a really top side will salvage some lost pride as well as provide a good launch pad for the last few months as we aim to realize the minimum target, that is qualify for the Champions League – a useful carrot if you want to attract the type of players Arsenal need to get back on top of the food chain.

What line up should we have and why?

A really strong one, one that would suggest we are taking the game serious. We have the players so it’s just a matter of getting the combinations right. Our defense has conceded a lot of soft goals since Christmas, putting a lot of pressure on the team. If we can keep it tight at the back, it should allow our attacking players to play with more freedom and dictate the pace of the game. The last thing we want is a Bayern team getting on top of us.

Anything else you would like to share…..?

As fans and players there’s nothing we can do about anything that has happened in the months leading up to where we find ourselves now. Arsene Wenger will be manager till May and there won’t be any new recruits until at least August; we might as well just dig our heels and hope for the best. Some might say too optimistic, I would say what’s the point of it all if you can’t have faith.