The first sport I ever loved was basketball. I started following the NBA in 7th grade (Mavs fan, Dallas pride), and, since then, I’ve only allowed two other sports—soccer and lacrosse—close to my heart. You can’t help what you love, what excites you, what makes you nervous and jittery; for me, that’s soccer, basketball and lacrosse. I really enjoy watching baseball, and I actually used to be a pretty big Rangers fan. I’m still a fan, but I don’t follow the league as rigorously as I used to in high school. I’ve started to appreciate and develop an interest in football, but it’s only basketball, soccer and lacrosse that really do it for me, and even then I don’t even follow any lacrosse leagues. I love it because I play the sport.

I know, I’m not one of those die-hard-since-birth kind of fans. I really wish I had been one of those types, so I’m sorry that I don’t know as much history or as many facts as you do, but I am a three-year Arsenal fan and damn proud of it. Since I am a new fan, people always ask me, “How’d you pick Arsenal?” And my answer isn’t a great one: out of my friends who followed the EPL, one was a Chelsea fan and the other was a Manchester United fan, and as incredible as both of those teams are, I wanted to find my own club.

And then, of course, there was Thierry Henry. What a legend. I may not have followed any big leagues, but I grew up on the World Cup. My father is a huge soccer fan, so whenever there was any type of game on TV, he would be watching it. My family is Turkish, so he followed Fenerbahçe, but not meticulously. It’s strange when I think about it now because I wonder why I didn’t start following a team sooner, but no one around me really followed soccer intently or it never came up in conversation. I think it’s because soccer is kind of an overlooked sport in America, which is sad. Someone once said there are two universal languages in the world: soccer and food. I would say that’s pretty accurate.

Watching the World Cup bred my appreciation and fascination for soccer (and ultimately led to a soccer player infatuation starting in high school and continuing today), so every two summers it would be the Euros and the World Cup. Wherever my family was, that’s what our summers revolved around. So that’s how I became aware of the great French superstar, and that’s why I ultimately chose Arsenal. My newfound appreciation for Arsenal and the EPL made me love soccer even more. Any soccer fanatic will know the feeling that I cannot even describe here—that feeling of absolute happiness, nervousness and excitement when your team enters the stadium, when kick-off starts and when the first goal is made. It is the same “I could die from happiness/I’m so excited I want to jump and cry” feeling I get when the NBA season starts, when playoffs start, when school starts again and I have pre-season practices for lacrosse. Now I’ve started feeling it for soccer. I started watching every major EPL and UCL game. Freshman year I didn’t have a car or a TV, so every Saturday morning when there was a 6:45 a.m. game, I ran to the YMCA near school, even when it was raining, and even in December when it was extremely cold and I didn’t want to leave my bed. But I always made it. And it was always worth it. Now, I’m one of those people who actually enjoys class, and I took HUMA because I’m obsessed with classical Greek plays and mythology. I don’t know how that translates to me having a less-than-exceptional class attendance record, but I have one…and with my resurged love for soccer, it’s gotten worse, because if there’s a game, I’m not in class (or I am  very reluctantly, constantly checking updates on my phone). Since freshman year, I have only become a bigger soccer and Arsenal nerd. I re-watch old games to see what we did well and what needs improvement. I try to plan my days and class schedule around game time, and thanks to an extremely devout Chelsea fan whom I’ve recently met, who knows everything and also does this practice, I’ve started to watch the international and club under-twenty-one teams to see who the up-and-coming players in the league are.

So I may not have followed my team as long as you have, and I’m not going to be embarrassed by how I picked it, because I absolutely love my team and I love this sport just as much as you do. I am a three-year Arsenal fan and damn proud of it.