Gooner of the Month: Amir Houshangi
Since we’re more than just supporters, we share a passion and a history of the club that we would like to highlight once a month. Something that really speaks to who we are being a Gooner week in, and week out.
Our March Gooner of the Month is Amir Houshangi.
What is your name?
Where are you from?
I come from a place not far from Iraq (My family is from Iran and I was born in the USA).
What got you interested in football?
Football is far and away the most popular sport among Iranians, so I was always glued to the TV during the World Cup, and was a sports fanatic growing up, even to the point of watching MLS in its opening season (Disclaimer: I still watch MLS too).
Growing up did you play football?
None. My best memory of elementary/grade school was playing footy during recess once and getting hit square in the face with a ball. I was a legend on the playground that day.
At what age did you start playing FIFA?
I was 11 years old when my friend and I played FIFA World Cup 98 on N64. Loved that game. Played FIFA here and there after that, but I didn’t become addicted mostly because I’m terrible at it.
Did you play or watch sports other than football growing up?
My sports watching days have included being a fanatic of American Football, Basketball, Hockey and even Baseball, and football was an afterthought except in World Cup years. Now, it’s reverse. I’m all football, all-the-time.
At what age did you start watching Arsenal?
I didn’t start watching until I was 23 years old. That number is important for later.
What about Arsenal caught your attention?
Highbury. The intimate seating, passionate fans and visible homes in the corner captivated me years before I ever watched a full Arsenal match on TV. I’m a big sports fan because of the way fans explode with excitement, and Arsenal fans at Highbury were the cream of the crop. I wish I could have seen a match at Highbury, and love to hear about its rich history from our own tenured OC Gooners.
Who is your all-time favorite Arsenal Player? What about this player stands out for you?
Thierry. Henry. I loved that dominant France team from 1998-2006, and took a liking to Henry after Euro 2000. Since he was slightly on my radar in between the tournament years, I’d occasionally see individual highlights of his brilliance, which is how I saw Highbury on TV from time to time. Now that I understand football even more, I sit back and marvel at his creativity, intelligence and great skill. I still watch him in awe even when he’s playing with New York Red Bulls.
Who is your favorite current Arsenal player and why?
Tough for me to choose between BFG and Arteta, but I’ll have to go with Mertesacker now. I love his defensive dominance, his leadership, his humor, and his ridiculous height. I’ve told this story before, but I HATED playing against him in FIFA, and would often curse his name. Years later when we signed him I was so excited to have a defender like him, but his performance and leadership now have far surpassed my most optimistic projections. And he has a brilliant chant.
Are you superstitious? Do you have any pre-match rituals?
I think I used to be that “which kit should I wear today” guy, but I think I’ve overcome any of that. Talk to me again if we are in a Cup Final though. I do feel a bit weird if I go to the Ship and we don’t sing at least one chant.
How did you first find out about the OC Gooners? When was your first time to The Olde Ship?
After World Cup 2010 I said enough was enough: I’m watching football full-time. I first learned about fan groups like American Outlaws that support the US national team, then learned about Premier League fan groups in the states. Naturally, I gravitated toward Arsenal because of Henry and those old Highbury highlights, but kept flaking on going to the Ship because I was nervous it would be like that one scene in Road Trip with the crazy fans.
What I did do was study up on Arsenal chants and chant culture in general and loved it. Terrace chanting is so unique and hilarious and arguably my favorite part of watching football. I also kept up with each Arsenal match. Note: It was during these early season matches that Marouane Chamakh was dominating in the absence of Van Per$ie. I then discovered Chamakh’s chant… and the rest is history.
My first game though, was the first leg of Arsenal’s Champions League match against Barcelona on February 16, 2011.
What were your expectations the first time watching a match with the group? Did you feel welcome?
Well I was still really nervous , and only vaguely knew most of the names of the people running the group. I showed up five minutes late too (big surprise) and that probably made it worse. On the way to the match, I was practicing all the chants out loud assuming that was the atmosphere, but every fan was focused as all hell on the game and we weren’t chanting. I wasn’t sure when to break in with a chant, but I thankfully did meet Scott Bowling and Keith Hall of OC Gooners fame, which made me feel welcome.
Did you feel the emotions and begin to chant?
The match was insane. Barcelona kept attacking, but our counter-attacking was sublime in this match. I was not chanting, but just taking in the sheer intensity of everything going on in my first match at the pub. Barcelona going up 1-0 was pretty deflating, even in my first game, but I was still excited.
While his departure is a deep wound for me, Van Per$ie equalizing in the 78th minute was amazing. The sudden nature of the goal and the celebration of Van Persie, the fans, and us at the Ship was incredible. After our cheering died down, I decided that it was time to hear a chant. Horribly, all I blurted out was “…And it’s Ar-se-nal” and forgot the rest of the words. But then, every single supporter in that bar finished the song loudly and proudly while I pretended I knew what I was singing.
The high of this was absolutely insane, and I’m getting goosebumps just thinking about our equalizing goal. But then I mentioned the significance of the number 23 when I first watched a full Arsenal game. That counter attack of Cesc to Na$ri and that deft pass to the little Russian happened so fast, but the goal and celebration seemed to last a lifetime. I may not be superstitious, but talk about a great introduction to OC Gooners and Arsenal.
What do you enjoy the most about the group?
I love how easy-going we all are (In person, lol) and feel like I really do have a family and network that is genuine. It makes me feel connected to Orange County more than I ever have, and I love this group. The people make it, and I look forward to seeing regulars and new members every week
What is your favorite OC Gooner moment/memory?
While it’s hard-to-top the Arshavin goal, let me just say that any game against sp*rs is always amazing. I don’t often feel the weight of the rivalry given the Chelski fans’ presence at the Ship, and the fact that I have never been to North London, but I actually relish these derby days. Our energy during these matches is something else.
Do you have a favorite activity outside of the pub that you enjoy with individual OC Gooners or the entire group?
While I didn’t play much footy growing up, playing in the weekly indoor league was really fun and I encourage everyone to get together with OC Gooners and play more. My indoor career was a bit rough, but I hope that I can take advantage of some casual pickup sessions. Social events have been fun too, and truthfully I want to attend more. Hats off to the OCG management and founders though, I feel like we really have something special. ATID
You can find Amir on Twitter @soccratic