Oh Chels’. When I first came to London in September, promising articles were sprawled about the Blues all over the sports section of the Evening Standard. As an American, I was particularly enamored of Captain America, Christian Pulisic. The winger began his Premier League career with a stellar streak of games, including one hat-trick, before getting injured later in the season. But Chels’, you let me down and in my first live football game, no less! Or maybe I simply don’t know what it’s like to root for a team that’s not the New England Patriots (the American football team with 6 super bowl rings and a reputation for getting better when the stakes get higher).
I saw Chelsea lose to Manchester United (0-2) on their first game back from the mid-season winter break. The game was primetime, on Monday Night Football, with a Champions League berth on the line for the Blues. Despite the stakes, the atmosphere at Stamford Bridge was calm. It was so relaxed that there were no metal detectors to enter the stadium. As an American, I personally cannot recall a major sporting event that didn’t use metal detectors in all of my life.
In football, scoring requires a certain level of endurance when chances come so few and far between. To have not one, but two goals reversed based on VAR (Video Assistant Referee), is a disservice to competition, Chelsea, and football fans in general. Manchester United was no clear winner. The score may have been 2-0, but had VAR not been active, it would have been 2-2 and perhaps more exciting. The athleticism of the game was incredible to watch and it was a shame it was not more reflected in the results.
Personally, I felt that the Chelsea fans were a tad too mellow, especially for a game in which our team could have added serious weight behind their Champions League campaign. Maybe it’s the ban on alcohol in the stands that renders the fans so fatigued or maybe they’re just true fans of the game, their eyes glued to every step of each player’s footwork.
There was a feeling of local pride going into the game; people weren’t crazy on the tube ride home – I actually saw someone pull out a book. Men hugged goodbye as they got off the tube and said nice things like “Text me when you get home safe, mate!” They were less friendly however to my friend and I, who remarked that when we have attended other sporting events, the people next to us always introduce themselves or interact when there’s an exciting play. Chelsea fans are a serious, tight-knit bunch.
While Chelsea was able to secure a win against Tottenham last Saturday, they fell scoreless to Bayern Munich (0-3) on Tuesday night. This loss was considerably worse than the Manchester United loss as commentators stated that this just might be Chelsea’s Champions League exit.
A promising first season under new manager and former Chelsea player, Frank Lampard thus far, even despite transfer period restrictions from a violation the previous year, has come crumbling down in less than a few weeks.
Chelsea will have to try again to clinch their Champions League berth, and while I am absolutely no Premier League football expert, as a sports fan, a situation where a team can’t win at home against tough opponents towards the end of a season signifies a team that will not make it for the long haul. With new signings and returning players from injury next season, hopefully Frank Lampard can rebuild the same cohesion that was felt at the beginning of this season.