Come On You Spurs
Tears, Tottenham, and the beautiful game.
By Victor Omojola
In September 2013, when Dejan Lovren scored a 53rd-minute goal to beat Liverpool one-nil, I cried. Okay—I sobbed. To be fair, I was eleven and when Steven Gerrard would go on to let the Premier League title slip to Manchester City later that season, triggering the return of those tears, I vowed to never let Liverpool Football Club be the source of such impassioned waterworks ever again. Nearly 10 years later, I have stayed true to my oath. Almost.
A few weekends ago, I followed a friend of mine to Flannery’s Bar, home of the New York Tottenham Supporters Club, to watch Spurs’ league match against Manchester City. Though I went at my friend’s suggestion, the game was of interest to me as well. Beat City and Liverpool would trail the league leaders by only six points with a game in hand.
On the way there, between adamant declarations from my Spurs pal—he’s asked not to be named because “I get cooked by my friends for supporting Tottenham all the time, I don’t need the whole internet on my ass, too”—that Tottenham was Manchester City’s “bogey” team and an upset was preordained, I considered the evolution of my football-watching habits.
Just a couple years ago, I usually consumed Premier League action alone and in bed (a five-hour time difference means early kick-offs). Now,I often have the opportunity to experience this phenomenon surrounded by hate-watching friends of rival teams in the lounges of Carlton Arms; and on this day in particular, I would be in an establishment packed full of patrons fueled by both European lager and an eagerness to experience 90 minutes of the beautiful game.
For Lucas Ho, CC ’24, supporting Chelsea is a family affair. Ho’s home in London is 15 minutes away from the Blues’ stadium, and his parents named his little sister, Chelsea, after the club. At Columbia, however, he is unable to consume football as intensely, and so Ho often watches games with friends in classrooms and lecture halls. “We get to kind of talk about what we think is going on in the game, or whatever.” For Ho, the social component of watching football is key, even if circumstances are less than ideal.
I approached the door of Flannery’s, excited to encounter this same sense of community. But when the bouncer asked me to pay a 10 dollar cover, I almost turned around. The thought of spending money to watch Tottenham was deeply upsetting. Yet, buoyed by the authentic atmosphere bursting beyond the door—it truly sounded like a crowd of hammered Brits rather than hammered Americans—I decided to keep calm and carry on. Still, my entrance was not so simple.
“What do you have under there?” the bouncer asked me.
I parted my unzipped puffer to either side like Superman, revealing the bright red Liverpool kit I donned underneath.
“Zip up,” he replied.
“Okay, I will when I get in there.” No response. “We’re rooting for you guys, you know?” I said, chuckling, still thinking this was some sort of joke to him. He didn’t share in my laughter and remained unmoved, obstructing my pathway to enter. I zipped up and was allowed to pass. The experience makes me concur with Zayd Hammour, CC ’24. “There’s way too many Tottenham fans in America,” he asserts. “What’s up with that? I’m not sure.”
Hammour was born in Syria, is British, and has lived in Lebanon and France. The United States does not exactly measure up in terms of how much football is ingrained in the culture. Still, Hammour is pleased with how much the sport is growing in the States.
Once inside, I saw visceral proof of this growth. Among at least a hundred boisterous individuals with similar delusions of grandeur, my Spurs friend was at home. Even after a sublime Harry Kane goal was disallowed for offside, especially after Kane scored (for real this time) to take the lead for Spurs, and even after City equalized in extra time to make it two-two, he chanted defiantly with his fellow Tottenham faithful: “COOOME OOON YOOOU SPUUURS!”
If Tottenham could just hold on, they would steal a draw and essentially validate my friend’s claim that the London club were City’s bogey. As for me, I would take any points off City that I could get. Plus, I was feeling sentimental. Cherishing the camaraderie of football fans that exists in a place like New York City was reward enough.
Still, the story felt all too familiar for perennial bottlers Spurs. Hammour, an Arsenal fan (so the following opinion is coming from a source both biased and delusional), articulates this history of mediocrity—if there is one at all. “If you mention Arsenal in the streets of London, there’s a bit of a class to the name, you know? Tottenham—there’s no class because there’s no history. I mean, it’s just the truth of it.”
But then something historic happened. Off a blistering counterattack, Kane’s massive Walthamstow forehead headed in a winner for Tottenham at the death. And the place went mad. Decibel levels skyrocketed. Beers sloshed and spilled as fans leaped and soared in unison.
My friend ran out of the bar and into the street, hugging strangers in between calling friends to boast. I could not help but smile myself—not only because the result benefits Liverpool, but because the match and the environment I had experienced it in were both genuinely beautiful. I don’t think I cried, but I came awfully close to breaking my decade-long vow—this time with tears of joy.