Ooh to be a Gooner: Mahlon

One might easily believe Mahlon Christensen was predestined to be a Gooner. Some 17 years, ago he wins a 2002-2003 Arsenal away kit during a pub quiz. Soon after, his good friend and rabid Arsenal supporter, Tal, visits and hands him a copy of Fever Pitch, Nick Hornby’s memoir of Arsenal fandom.

He immediately connects with the ideas of suffering and hope in the book. Watching Arsenal on television, he is captivated by the participatory nature of football fandom, the constant singing, chanting and bantering.

Theo Walcott, was the first Arsenal player Mahlon fell in love with. He settled on Walcott, while playing FIFA with Tay, because he was amongst the fastest players in the game. His current favorite is Gabriel Jesus. He’s brought an entire new dimension and attitude to our offense and to everyone. He has raised their game to a new level to match his enthusiasm.

Mahlon subsequently discovered the Bay Area Gooners online, joining our Facebook group. Originally from Modesto, now living in Alameda, he doesn’t get to Maggie McGarry’s as often as he would like, but has enjoyed some memorable moments at the pub including 2017’s FA Cup Final win over Chelsea.

In 2021, Dave Seager, the author of several books on Arsenal, reached out to ask him to participate in a new book. Mahlon has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, and Dave wanted him to share his story in Arsenal for Everyone, about Arsenal’s disabled supporters. Always check your Instagram DM’s, because you never know when one will provide a once in a lifetime opportunity or a chance for a new friendship. In this case I got both.

His friendship with Dave would solidify during Mahlon’s first visit to see Arsenal in person at Emirates Stadium in October, accompanied by his brother, Michael. Luckily my secret plan to make Michael into a passionate football fan came to fruition. His brother’s desire to go to London and willingness to help with logistics, got the duo planning in earnest. Dave secured them tickets to Arsenal v Tottenham and the trip was set.

On game day, the club arranged for them to see the Arsenal players arrive for the match, An incredible experience primarily because we’ve all seen it on TV for so long. They watched the North London Derby from the Clock End, just behind the Ashburton Army, an Arsenal supporters group.

The noise and pageantry was unlike anything I’ve ever seen or heard! There were flags and the army never stopped singing from first kick to the last. In fact ALL the fans sang, in unison. It was great to hear all the new songs and to feel the energy of an entire stadium pulling together willing the team to victory.  It was surreal.

We were right behind the goal which Arsenal was attacking during the first half. To see the first goal go in was a thrill, I will never forget! I felt like it was coming straight at me.  Everything just lined up for us to come this year and with Arsenal in first place it couldn’t have been a better year. And we got to go to the best game of the year and watch Arsenal win again.

Finally seeing Arsenal at the Emirates was the fulfillment of a long time dream! I honestly thought that at my age and with the significant arrangements that are required for me to travel, that I might never see Arsenal play in person. Mahlon saw his dream day at the stadium further commemorated by inclusion in the matchday programme.

Mahlon and Michael also accompanied Dave on a Legends Tour of the stadium, led by Perry Groves. This included the director’s box, the golden Invincibles’ trophy, manager’s office, and of course, the team locker room, Mahlon had seen so many times in All or Nothing. Mahlon says, I’d like to point out how helpful the Arsenal staff were on the tour; they were there to call elevators and facilitate my wheelchair movement throughout the stadium. After the tour, Perry spent another 30 minutes with them and was in Mahlon’s words, a true gent.

Following the tour, they took in the Arsenal Museum and Highbury, It was really incredible to be there after seeing it in pictures for so long! He also connected with UK friends he’d made online, some he’d corresponded with for a decade. It meant a lot to me that they each took the time to come to where I was staying to meet in person.

Being a member of the Arsenal community is vitally important to Mahlon. He’s happy to share his story with fans he feels understand him so deeply already. Not being a very social person by nature, initiating conversations is hard for me, so it’s great to have a built-in network of people who all care about the same thing that I do.  Whether we watch from near or far, no matter what the time zone, we all feel a part of something larger than ourselves. Arsenal is for everyone, we are one family.

Thank you to Michael McAnaney for sharing his photos. You can follow Mahlon on Instagram here.

Published by Bay Area Gooners

Founder of the Bay Area Gooners