October 17th, 2006: the last time Arsenal travelled to Russia for a competitive game against CSKA Moscow.
Remember 2006? Donald Trump was firing reality TV contestants instead of FBI directors. People were more concerned with Pluto being a planet than Putin destroying ours. For all we knew, Novichok was probably a Serbian midfielder that Inter Milan had their eye on. They were simpler times.
The modern world faces a struggle that we could not have dreamt of 12 years ago. The line between fact and fiction has been irreversibly blurred. Families, communities and society as a whole have become divided. Those who seek only to abuse and vilify have been given a platform for spreading hate.
I am of course referring entirely to ArsenalFanTV.
A lot has been thrown at the now infamous YouTube channel. Journalists have condemned its negativity. Gary Neville labelled it ‘embarrassing’. Even Héctor Bellerín, a player for the club that the channel was specifically created to support, dismissed ArsenalFanTV as ‘so wrong’ when quizzed about it at his Oxford University Q&A.
Despite all this very much justified criticism, the channel continues to thrive.
Over 700,000 subscribers and nearly half a billion views is hard to argue with. ArsenalFanTV is now part of the furniture in the living room of modern football consumption. The ‘stars’ of their videos now have genuine fame too. Robbie is about to get his own show on channel four. DT has more twitter followers than most Football League clubs. Claude, a man who truly has no right to have any presence on social media, has his own vine compilation.
Having seemingly overcome all the naysayers and critics, ArsenalFanTV now faces a different type of challenge: an away trip to Moscow.
Surviving a few mean tweets and YouTube comments is one thing, but visiting the Russian capital in the current political climate is a whole different kettle of nerve agent. Russia find us Brits annoying enough already – what are they going to think of us when Troopz takes to the Red Square to loudly critique Rob Holding’s positioning? Are the CSKA hooligans really going to sympathise with Ty’s love of pricey capitalist club merchandise?
The signs don’t look good, but if anybody can upset the odds, it’s the boys at ArsenalFanTV. They’ve obtained huge online fame, they’ve made an imprint on English football, who’s to say they can’t prevent World War Three? Maybe Claude can turn Putin’s supporters against him with one of his ‘it’s time to go’ diatribes. Perhaps the Russian police are ‘Wenger Out’ too? With all the crazy things that have happened since 2006, you just can’t rule out this lot saving the world.