The Gooner Fanzine has always been amazed at the talent and creativity shown by artists and designers among the Arsenal community.
Gooner editor Layth Yousif has been chatting to the brilliant Nils Ekenberg, as part of a new series called ‘Gooner Social’, which will be highlighting such outstanding creatives. Artists that will be featuring in future issues of the Gooner and online.
Read on to learn more about Nils – or as you might better know him: Arsenal Editor - and his highly-acclaimed work, which has drawn praise from within the current Arsenal squad, including Alex Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
“My dad bought me an Arsenal shirt with Freddie Ljungberg’s name on the back as a present when I was a kid”, says 22-year-old Nils, “and after that I was hooked.”
Nils was born in Paris to a French mum and Swedish dad. He arrived the year France won the 1998 World Cup – in a squad containing Arsenal legends Patrick Vieira, Manu Petit and Thierry Henry – meaning, from day one, his support of the Gunners was never in doubt.
The youngster with 200,000 Instagram followers and 70 million views on his YouTube channel, watched Arsenal from afar, from Scandinavia, while he was growing up. Being Swedish, he paid particular attention to the legendary Freddie, while constantly reading up on the history of our club, including ‘Super Swede’ Anders Limpar. Nils has a keen appreciation of Arsenal’s long and illustrious past, using his knowledge to inform the present.
When he was 15, he eventually got to watch a match at the Emirates with his dad. “It was an incredible experience to finally watch my team in the flesh,” explains, adding: “I was buzzing for days.” While Arsenal may have lost that particular match, against Manchester City, 2-1 in 2015, the bug had bitten Nils - big time.
“On that trip, I asked my dad to take us to Woolwich to visit the origins of Arsenal. It’s not the easiest place to get to, or that there is much to see when you get there - but I wanted to feel the connection with the history of Arsenal."
Such is the devotion to The Arsenal from Nils, he adds: “My dad, even now, he tells me with a smile, ‘We didn’t have time to see Big Ben on that trip, because we spent all our time visiting an unremarkable park in south London.”
As he got older, like many before him, he would fly over from Sweden, on weekend trips to London, to watch his beloved heroes in the north of the capital.
However, while he was immersing himself in matchday culture, Nils also started a YouTube channel. “We had a project at school where we had to film short sketches of each other. I really enjoyed it and decided to start my own YouTube channel.
“My friends all laughed at me and said it wouldn’t work. But I knew I wanted to do something that would show my genuine love of the club, along, of course with a little visual creativity.”
Arsenal Editor was born
It took time for it to grow, but, with the help of Gooner Dave - aka Gooner Fanzine columnist Dave Seager - who, at the time, was working on a book dedicated to Gunners legend Geordie Armstrong, Nils' project flourished.
Nils’ input was a short video to help share the news about the book. The publication was a huge success, with Dave happily sending Nils a copy of the tome, signed by a number of Arsenal heroes who played alongside the much-loved Geordie.
The amazing Arsenal community
Nils was delighted at receiving the unexpected present from Dave. “I understood, there and then, what a beautiful thing the Arsenal community can be when it works together."
As the years progressed, Nils’ channel continued to grow, clocking up an incredible 70 million views – and counting - while his work on his Insta account was gaining recognition, not least from inside the Arsenal squad.
“I kept getting requests to link-up with betting companies, but I wasn’t doing what I was doing for money,” he explains. “It was a labour of love about The Arsenal. I just wanted my account to be genuine, I wanted it to be authentic.
"It was about love, not money. I always refused commercial partnerships.”
Laca and Auba approval
One day, out of the blue, Nils saw on his notifications that Alex Lacazette had followed him.
"I was shocked, I never interacted with him, as I didn’t want to scare him off," the good-natured YouTuber recalls. "Some people might want things from famous footballers, but I didn’t want anything. I just wanted him to enjoy my work on Insta," insisted Nils.
“I stayed calm and kept posting,” said Nils, “and Lacazette, well, he kept liking my posts.”
As the months progressed, and with the resurgent Emirates outfit making waves under new boss Mikel Arteta, Arsenal memorably lifted their record 14thFA Cup over the summer, in a glorious 2-1 victory over London rivals Chelsea.
Nils decided to produce work commemorating the Gunners glorious Wembley success. Plucking up courage, he finally reached out to Lacazette. “As my mum is from Paris, I can speak the language, so I wrote him a short message in French,” he explained.
“I did an FA Cup poster with him and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. I asked Lacazette if he wanted a framed poster sent to him to commemorate the triumph. But that, if it wasn’t for him, then just have a nice day and thank you for beating Chelsea.”
Not expecting a reply, Nils, who works in a bank in Stockholm, got on with his day job.
He takes up the story with a rueful smile.
Two friends at work came rushing towards him at lunchtime. “I didn’t understand what was going on at first. They were so joyful,” Nils recalls. “Then they told me: ‘Lacazette has shared your poster with his millions of followers.’
“It was an incredible feeling. I was so shocked I couldn’t do any more work for the rest of the day because I couldn’t concentrate.”
Arsenal striker Lacazette then sent Nils a personal message of gratitude. Not long after his pal and fellow attacker Aubameyang also shared the poster with his nine millions followers on Insta. While Hector Bellerin and other Arsenal players have also interacted with him.
Such recognition led to more work and an even bigger vibe around his creative talents.
Yet, the humble Nils has his feet very much on the ground, studying for a Master’s degree while working in his homeland for the fastest growing Swedish bank.
But he does want to share his art with a wider audience....
See the Gooner Fanzine in 2021 for on Nils and keep an eye out for collaboration or two with this talented Swedish Gooner called Arsenal Editor….
Follow Layth on Twitter @laythy29