…It was a December day in the end of 2009. I can’t really say it was cold or not, because in my country the temperatures don’t usually go too low. My grandfather and I were staying together inside the room, when, out of nowhere, I asked him: “Grandpa, which is your favourite team?” “I support Chelsea.” – he replied.
At the time I was just seven years old. Football was still for me something distant, unreachable and my only contacts with the game were just some matches from my country’s league and several pieces from 2009 Confederations Cup. In this manner, I couldn’t imagine that falling in love with this magic sport would be such an easy, uncontrollable and half-unconscious situation.
To be honest with you, the dear reader, I have never understood the opinion of some people, who say that being a fan, or better, a die-hard fan, is a question of choice. Of course, there are a lot of factors that have a particular influence: a familiar tradition regarding the specific team they support, suggestions of friends etc., but frankly, nothing like this was the case for me. Personally, I listened to my heart. I listened to my sentiments and only in this way, a 7 year-old pupil in the first class of elementary school like me, managed to get what a honorable privilege being a Chelsea fan is. I managed to create a-clear-as-day idea about the pride of being committed to this club, watching the games week in week out, keeping myself updated about everything and feeling the beat that nothing else in life offers you.
Certainly, I can never deny that the magnificent team of 2009-10 led by Carlo Ancelotti is one of the biggest reasons I am a Chelsea fan for a decade now. In my opinion, it wasn’t particularly an unstoppable team, but the hermetic group that was created would produce such a fresh harmony, which all could easily notice home and away. Consequently, the 7-2 vs Sunderland, the 8-0 vs Wigan, the 7-0 vs Stoke City, the 7-1 vs Aston Villa and so on, aren’t results that happen suddenly or by chance. These are the fruits reaped because of a strong connection of leaders on and off the pitch. Nothing else can be thought when you have in your organic such players like Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard, John Terry, Petr Cech, Ashley Cole. Big names. Huge contribution. Legendary profiles. Born winners.
I think you dear reader will give me the permission to go fast forward on 9th May 2010. For the rest of Chelsea supporters, this is the day of clinching the Premier League title after 4 years of wait. For me, it’s something more. Let me tell you. One day before, I was feeling stressed and anxious. Manchester United were just one point behind, so nothing was assured. As always, I went to my grandfather, my hero and I expressed him my worry. “Grandpa, I am worried about what will Petr Cech do tomorrow after the game.” – I would say. “Petr will jump up and down the pitch celebrating.” – he would reply. However, during the sleep, I had a dream. As it’s widely known, we usually dream about a situation we have faced or thought about in reality. In addition, we know that when we wake up, we forget the 90% of our dream. Believe it or not, Chelsea-Wigan was my next dream scenario and fortunately, the 10% that people remember from their dreams, in my case, was used to carve the most important part of it: the final score. 2-0 Chelsea. I wake up, superbly happy, only to realise that the heady and glamorous effect had immediately turned into a conscious desire I couldn’t reach or touch…just for some hours, though.
If someone told me before that the real result would be 4 times bigger than the one which my unconsciousness produced, I would say that I am watching a second dream, but this one could seem more natural, inside the borders of reality, because, I would have my eyes open after all. Anyway, it was one of those days my beloved club showed once again that nothing is impossible. That the unconditional efforts and commitment will be rewarded. We thrashed, destroyed, smashed Wigan and showed the world that we fully deserved it. That we had the ability to be an example of unity and collective power. 8-0. Chelsea are the Champions of England. My dream – it turned out to be just a small indication that something much, much gigantic was going to REALLY happen later that day.
From 2010 to 2012. When we wrote the history, when the strength of unity overcame every possible obstacle, when the impossible was nonexistent, when Chelsea won the most prestigious trophy for clubs ever, the UEFA Champions League itself.
I remember very well that my school-mates were teasing me after we won the first leg against Barcelona at Stamford Bridge, courtesy of a Didier Drogba’s goal. “Hey mate, Barcelona are 100% winning in the second leg.” “Barcelona will take revenge at Camp Nou one week later, no chance that Chelsea goes through to the final.” I would calmly reply: “Wait and see, don’t be too sure…”
Football is crazy, but that night in Spain it reached whole new levels. It was one of those nights you feel literally everything that football offers: from a dark and hopeless situation, full of anger, tears, disappointment, headaches, sadness to a bright and indescribable success, which immediately becomes a source of pride, happiness, joy and something else, a type of feeling which includes all of them, that one who pushes you into celebrating for hours. It’s a sort of authentic and unique emotion that only a die-hard fan feels.
To be clearer, I started crying non-stop after Andres Iniesta scored their second. In the meantime, my familiars were trying to make me feel calm, telling me constantly that it was known since the start Chelsea couldn’t beat Barcelona and stuff like this. But they didn’t know how much I believed in my team. It was exactly one of those occasions you should be stubborn and stick to your thoughts, your decision, your opinion. Ramires scored and the light at the end of the tunnel was more than evident now.
The second half was a complete roller-coaster of emotions for me. I remember running from my room to the cuisine pretty often, because it was so difficult to face that tension, as seconds became practically minutes and minutes seemed like hours. Fernando Torres was “my doctor” that night. He became indirectly a stumbling block to my suffering and his goal was “the perfect medicine” to overcome the psychological shock of the first half. 10 players? Who cares. Chelsea are in the final of Munich. And I have what to say to those friends…Who laughs last, laughs best.
The Munich night, though, was the icing on the cake. (As everyone can expect, though.) 4 years after, if I can call it so, the tragedy of Moscow, we had another big chance. At least in paper, it was much more difficult this time, as we were playing Bayern Munich, a consistently-good team at their home, at their own backyard. During my 2 year-and-a-half period as a Blue, I had certainly got more matured. I had created an idea about what being a true fan means, but at the same time, I had understood that in our society, there are a lot of people who just want to attract attention, talk with no proof or just…want to test you and make you angry, taking into consideration how passionate you are. It was more or less the case with me. Those who were telling me that Barcelona would eliminate us, now were giving me no guarantee about us lifting the trophy. I even had a bet with one of them. ”I will give you a pizza if Chelsea win, otherwise you will give me one.” – he would say. ”Okay.” – I agreed.
I was extremely nervous during the day. So much that I couldn’t focus on anything else. Anyway, I didn’t reckon that what I had felt was literally nothing compared to my excitement 1 hour or so before the game. I had even forgotten my phone outside the room and when my father had called me just after finishing work to watch the game together outside, I couldn’t have heard it. However, good for me, as I don’t really like to watch Chelsea games in noisy places, unless it’s a Chelsea community around. In this way, I didn’t regret it at all.
When Muller scored, I burst out in tears. Can’t exactly explain it, but I think this hit me more than the goals conceded at Camp Nou three weeks before. My tears and a waterfall would make no difference between them. But my club has always taught me that in every circumstances, despite everything, we must fight till the end. And those Golden guys had the proper mentality and standards to shock Allianz Arena and maybe all neutral fans who could bet their house for a Bayern win. My legend, my idol in life, on and off the pitch, the pure example of a dignified, humanist, hard-working and successful man, Didier Drogba headed the ball into the back of the net after an inch-perfect cross from Juan Mata, giving Manuel Neuer absolutely no chance.
Each passing minute of the extra-time, especially after the penalty save from ”Big Pete”, represented for me a decade gone, maybe a century gone, but never just 60 seconds gone. When it went to the penalties, though, I thought everything I had lived for 120 minutes was a complete understatement. Especially after the apocalyptic feeling I had when Juan Mata’s shoot was saved by Manuel Neuer. At that moment, in my head, the objects weren’t in the right place, because they had deviated from normality. It was an upside-down situation, a temporary agony, but ”Big Pete” and at the end ”King Didi” knew how to fix stuff and show the world that sheer grit, passion, determination and team spirit could push you to completely new limits.
My dear grandpa was there. I will never forget the moment when he decided to turn his head around in order to not watch the penalty shoot from Didier. As soon as my screams of joy were heard, he stood up and hugged me, congratulated me and I continued screaming and celebrating very late at night. The next day, I bought the sport newspaper and a photo with a big headline on it of our glory filled the majority of the first page. Allianz Arena was colored blue that night, as my heart was. I felt prouder than ever. Even today, 19th of May 2012 is undoubtedly the best day of my life.
On Monday, 21st of May, as you can wonder, it was me who laughed in front of those speechless people at school, who could ”sing” like nightingales before, but now they seemed to had forgotten the lyrics of their stinging song…and when I sweeten my lips with the flavor of being the one who laughed the last and the best, that mate didn’t give me the promised pizza. I am still waiting nonetheless…
I had a weird affection for Jose Mourinho. Of course, a lot of Chelsea fans had a special connection with him, match-goers or not and the incredible success of his first stint was the main reason of this. However, it was one of those situations that left me a bitter taste. I cried when he was sacked in December of 2015, but I couldn’t understand then that his departure was very much needed for our club. There are a lot of moments in life when you have to reflect in order to get the best out of something. At the time, I thought he was irreplaceable, but now I think that 2.0. Mourinho is one of the least visionary coaches we have ever had. His charisma was there, his relationship with the fans was the same as before, but his man-management skills were below average and his treatment towards some gems in the making was cruel. So, in other words, after my reflection, I could spot his metamorphosis from 1.0 version very easily.
2016-17 season was one of the seasons I have personally felt the most as a Chelsea fan. 13 wins in a row, beating City away, a game after whom I couldn’t still have lunch because of the goosebumps and emotion, 4-0 against United, school break for at least one month in January by reason of the cold winds coming from Arctic zone, were just some of the highly-positive moments of that year. The FA Cup final loss spoiled it a little bit, but overall it was such a ”sunny” season with a few lows and a lot of highs.
Some weeks ago, I became 17 years old. In this decade as a Chelsea fan, I have learnt quite a lot, not only about football, but also about life. My grandpa isn’t anymore with me, but I will always remember him for being a classy person, a real gentleman, a great life-teacher, a wonderful and generous father, a massively-respected man by everyone, the bountiful grandfather who made me know the importance of love, peace, intellectualism and wisdom since that age, and above all, the hero who is the main reason I am a Chelsea fan today. I know I am just a water drop in the ocean of ”The Blues” all over the world, but that’s the same with all of us. We all, with our infinite love for this magnificent club, give our contribution in supporting Chelsea through and through, home and away, whether rain or fine, because we are an ocean who will always represent the 12th player. COME ON CHELSEA!!