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Premier League passion in the US: Gbenga's story

26 Aug 2021
Gbenga, PLinUSA 1

Spurs fan from Washington says players' anti-racism stance connected him with the Premier League

Last season, the Premier League's US Instagram account, @PLinUSA, highlighted the passionate, diverse PL fandom from coast to coast, in the series Premier League passion in the US: Fans' stories.

Here we continue our 2021/22 series with another tale of Premier League fandom.

Meet Tottenham Hotspur fan Gbenga Ajilore, whose growing love of soccer helped him connect both with his family in Nigeria and also Premier League players who support the anti-racism message by taking the knee.


"I’m a senior advisor of rural development in the US Department of Agriculture and became a fan of the Premier League more recently.

"When Colin Kaepernick kneeled and protested, I thought it was a very good thing. You think about Muhammad Ali and Tommie Smith and John Carlos in 1968, it's something very near and dear to my heart.

"So when he (Kaepernick) was cut, I assumed he would get back into the league, and I said I wasn't going to watch football until he gets back - not thinking it would be a lifetime.

"In the fall, when I would normally be watching football, my weekends became kind of free.

"In December 2017 I went to visit my uncle in Nigeria, and there, soccer is huge. Where he lives, you're either an Arsenal or a Chelsea fan.

"I was watching with him during Christmas, when so many games are on, and I saw Spurs with Dele Alli - a man with a Nigerian name. I didn't want to support a bandwagon team, and I thought Spurs would be a great team to follow. I just got more and more into it the more I watched. They're my team now."

And when Spurs beat rivals Arsenal in a big capital derby in July 2020, Gbenga took to social media to celebrate in his own special way.

Although still relatively new to following soccer, he already feels very much a part of the Premier League community too.

"Being a new fan and learning the culture around it was a lot of fun - the terminology, all of it. I don't feel like I'm by myself - I know there are thousands of people across the country getting up early at the same time, a lot of them with their kids or their dogs, it's just this great communal thing.

"To now see the players in the Premier League kneeling, it was so interesting to see.

Gbenga PLinUSA 2

"I think in the beginning, there was a lot of consternation about it and people thinking it was an empty gesture - but after seeing what has happened over the summer at the Euros and now the response of the crowd being so supportive, there's this sense that people understand that it's an important gesture.

"It's league-wide, it wasn't one player or one team, but across all leagues. It's coming from the top down that we're not tolerating this anymore. It makes me feel like I don't have to feel guilty rooting for them - because on that issue, they're on the right side of it.

"Sports are so ubiquitous, but also there's so much passion about it. They're making a statement, one that's loud and clear that people cannot mistake. They blow the whistle, everyone goes on one knee and then, the commentators - every single time - explain why they're getting down on one knee.

"You have to pay attention. All eyes are on the game and you say, 'Hey, this is because we want to combat racism, and we aren't gonna tolerate it anymore'."

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