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Thursday Roundtable: 1996 and all that

In which we ask a question that gets some interesting answers.


Today is the 20th anniversary of Arsene Wenger taking the reins at Arsenal, and while we’ll have other articles talking about What That All Means, we decided to do this week’s roundtable as a more personal reflection on that theme, so this week’s question is:

Where were you on September 22, 1996?

Probably in diapers, in a Washington Heights apartment, as I was 2 and a half.

Since it was a Sunday, I was not in my third grade classroom, which is what I was going to say originally. I also wasn’t playing soccer, because my games were mostly on Saturdays as I recall – though I was probably still pretty good at it back then, unlike now. I was a pretty athletic kid. So I guess I would have been at home, probably watching Star Trek: The Next Generation or reading about dinosaurs or something like that. I certainly had no idea who Arsène Wenger was, or what Arsenal was. I might not even have known about London yet at that point, honestly, though that’s debatable.

September 22, 1996 was the four month anniversary of my mom and me emigrating to the United States from Bosnia due to the war, so I was probably studying English or something. At that point soccer was pretty far from our minds, so unfortunately I was unaware of Arsene Wenger getting the head coaching gig. Even if I was, getting regular soccer updates in Bismarck, ND was somewhat a rarity so I was as far from the sport (in the professional sense) as I ever was in my life.

Ah, yes. September 22nd, nineteen ninety and six, as they say (no they don’t). I remember it as if t’were yesterday (no I don’t).

I was in the midst of my sophomore year of high school, a sinewy trashboy of hormones, sports affinity and a penchant for any kind of trouble possible. I became an Arsenal fan over the next 2-3 years, though I can’t really pinpoint when it happened. By the time I graduated, I was a dedicated Gunner while my two best friends were Chelsea supporters. No idea how any of it happened to three kids in Dallas, Texas, but it did.

If I’m being specific? I was watching NFL football because it was a Sunday. I was probably eating something delicious and likely fried because it was Texas. And, well, life was good.

Shout out to the last 20 damn years of life for errbody, Arsène, but mostly all of yall, included.

Sept. 22 1996 would have been...let's see...the third week of my sophomore year of high school. This means I was trying to learn the trumpet part in the Lord of the Rings suite, having fun reading Julius Caesar in English class, and probably worrying about something. I also would have been watching a lot of Monty Python and listening to CCR. I had many friends on the soccer team, but the Premier League was, at best, some exotic names like "Coventry" flashing across a screen on a cable channel called MSC (forerunner of Fox sports in northern Minnesota) for like 30 minutes a week. HOWEVER: my friend did have a George Weah poster, and Wenger signed Weah at one point, so...

I would have been 15, freshly released from the hellish life of Grade 9 with a brother in Grade 13 to enjoy the one year of high school (Grade 10, for those doing math) where no one of my family would be at my school. (My sister and mother would join the school the following year.) I knew nothing of the Premier League save for the few wistful stories my father rarely told of him as a boy. What I was into was books, history, homework, good cartoons and re-reading Lord of the Rings.

Sportswise, I was silently deciding on a path after losing my short term cultivation of being a fan of the Winnipeg Jets, who were up and sold and moved to Phoenix to be the Coyotes. I would eventually decide, amid amateurishly played games of Magic: The Gathering, to follow suit with my friends and join up with the Toronto Maple Leafs. It would take a few years before I knew of Arsenal, Arsene Wenger and for games to be regularly shown on TV.

September 22nd, 1996, I would have almost been 14 months. My family moved from Calcutta to London when I was really young so I was probably right in the thick of things. But, seeing as I could barely talk, I didn't realize how massive the Wenger news was.


As the site’s resident Old Person, I appear to be the only one on staff who was a fully formed adult (at least physically) in September of 1996. I was living in Seattle, working for a gigantic global financial concern as a very small cog in a very, very large wheel, and spending a lot of my weekends getting up at 4AM to go to the one reliable soccer bar in town, which was the only place I could actually watch live soccer. Oh, the 90’s.

I was about five years into my Arsenal fandom at the time, and like a lot of Arsenal fans (and English people in general), I had no idea who Arsene Wenger was.

All I knew about him was that he’d managed in Japan, and as a snotty 27 year old who, by being 27, of course knew everything about English soccer and English culture, I was convinced that because Wenger had no “real” experience, he would fail and that Arsenal would scramble to get George Graham back or something.

This is why I don’t make a living doing punditry.

What about you? Where were you on Sept 22, 1996 - and did this news even register for you at the time?