Barclays Asia Trophy 2015

Devoted Gunners fan an 'Invincible'

Jill Smith presenting a medal to one of the winners of a fans' football tournament organised by the Official Arsenal Singapore Supporters Club on Saturday. She helped establish more than 140 clubs worldwide.
Jill Smith presenting a medal to one of the winners of a fans' football tournament organised by the Official Arsenal Singapore Supporters Club on Saturday. She helped establish more than 140 clubs worldwide.PHOTO: ARSENAL SINGAPORE

Jill Smith has never scored a goal for Arsenal but the English Premier League football club have honoured her with the ultimate tribute by calling her an Invincible.

The Invincibles moniker was given to the club when they were unbeaten in the 2003-04 EPL season.

And true to her status as one of the Gunners' most devoted fans, she was in Singapore to cheer Arsene Wenger's men on to victory in the Barclays Asia Trophy.

Smith, who paid for her trip here, got a warm welcome from the Official Arsenal Singapore Supporters Club. She was invited to gatherings and gave out medals at a fans' football tournament on Saturday.

Smith, 66, believes all supporters should be treated as part of "one big Arsenal family".

The lifelong Gooner said: "Seeing the Arsenal fans from various countries bond together here in Singapore, I get very emotional."

Smith, who is single, reckons that since 1969, she has missed just five Arsenal games home and away.

She first volunteered at the club 40 years ago as a travel escort to take care of fans at away games.

She became a full-time supporters' liaison officer in 2001.

As part of her job, she helped establish more than 140 official Arsenal supporters' clubs worldwide.

Eric Ong, 37, president of the supporters' club here, lauded Smith for her efforts in bringing the Gunners closer to the fans.

"Every Gooner knows who Jill is. She was the main one who gave us direction to start the club, she has always been very responsive and patient in helping us," he said.

Smith has plenty of memories of her beloved Gunners and cites the club's double-winning campaign of 1971 and the dramatic league title triumph at Liverpool in 1989 as some of her fondest moments.

For her loyalty, Arsenal gave her a surprise when she retired last year.

At the last home game of the 2013-14 season, the club's former midfielder Robert Pires, part of the 2003-04 team, introduced Smith to the Emirates Stadium crowd, calling her an all-time great.

"I just elbowed my friend in the ribs in shock, it was incredible," she recounted excitedly.

A video montage was beamed, showing past and present Arsenal players thanking her.

Now that she is retired, Smith said: "I can watch even more junior and reserve games because I'll be free mid-week!

"There's loads of friends to catch up with, that I've neglected over the years, but everyone knows that with me, football comes first, everything else second."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 20, 2015, with the headline 'Devoted Gunners fan an 'Invincible''. Print Edition | Subscribe