Yesterday, The Brace Phoenix team watched the FA Cup Finals with the Arizona Gooners at their home bar, the Yucca Taproom in Tempe. We walked in at 9 AM, and immediately the group’s leadership handed us team flags and yellow ribbons. After helping move the pinball machine out of the way of the projector, we wandered around the diverse crowd of people being introduced, greeting on another, and hugging. All of this took place under a professional banner that Arsenal & Arsenal America sent for the days’ event.
At Yucca Taproom the Arizona Gooners have their own room – complete with 5 TVs, a projector screen, sound system, a room specific bar with a large beer selection (I think 29 on tap), a pool table, and bathrooms. Last week, for the final game of the Premier League season, the room was about half full with 40 people. At the FA Cup, the room was packed, and somewhat hard to move around, leading us to estimate that at least 80 people were there.
The atmosphere was incredible. Cheers broke out spontaneously, often originating at the front of the room, where much of the AZ Gooners’ leadership stood. The atmosphere was passionate throughout, pitching and rolling with the plays the entire time. The camaraderie was also on display as the loud room went absolutely still during the minute of silence for victims of the Manchester attack.
At the end of the game a large group of supporters, who signed up, hopped onto a chartered bus and went bar-hopping around town. Before that, the AZ Gooners’ leadership thanked the supporters for a great season, made heart filled remarks about members who were leaving town, and told the crowd about the need for another board member to be elected. Then pizza was brought in for those who stuck around.
The Brace Phoenix team members that were there, were impressed. The Arizona Gooners are very well organized, incredibly warm, very, very diverse, and spirited. They and the Yucca Taproom have created a truly impassioned and important space that hosts an impressive and seemingly sacred community.