StoryTelling

A Story Written in Blue – Bibesh Shrestha

I seriously think it is an understatement to say my experience over the years as a fan has been a roller coaster. At times, I wonder if an actual roller coaster has as many highs and lows as Chelsea supporters do.

Being born and raised in the generation when the internet was still a folklore, a time when phones had a curly cord, color television was the “bling-bling,” cassette players were still relevant, and kids had playgrounds. Yes, folks! Although it may sound like a tall tale in 2018 but back in the days, kids used to play outdoors. And for some reason, almost every neighborhood’s favorite ‘after-school’ sports, back then, was football.

Although football was already a routine sport in the neighborhood, I started to embrace ‘the beautiful game’ only after Korea/Japan hosted the world’s biggest football event in 2002. Boy, oh boy, it was certainly one of the most anticipated events in world football. From teachers to seniors to batchmates, every-freaking-one in the school talked about it. It was huge – something like “Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor” kind of shit, you know! And as a 10-year-old boy, 2002 FIFA World Cup was one of those tournaments I vividly remember watching on television and I guess that’s where my devotion for this game truly started.

Fair to say, there wasn’t anyone in my family who enjoyed watching football apart from the World Cup in those days. However, months after the World Cup, on a Saturday evening, I recall, I was randomly flipping the channels when I accidentally came across a live football match on ESPN Asia. I don’t remember what teams were playing or what tournament it was but there I was, in front of the television, enjoying the beautiful game of football. However, I was still not a regular attendee of either the “Saturday Night Football” or the “Super Sundays.”

Fast forward to the 2004-2005 season, I started watching premier league matches more frequently. It was only then that I started to understand the league, the point system, and a few names of the team. There was still no particular team I supported back then. I used to put on ESPN or Star Sports almost every Saturday and Sunday just to watch random teams play. It was one of those seasons when I seriously thought Arsenal Football Club was named after Arsene Wenger. Hah! Anyway, when that season came to an end, Chelsea Football Club won their first league title in fifty years! As a kid, we always want to be part of the winning side. I was no exception! Days later, I was singing the glory of the Chelsea Football Club as if I’d known them for ages!

“They’re a good team,” I used to argue every time a “rare” someone talked about premier league in school. Halfway through the 2005-2006 season, not only was my affection for Chelsea Football Club growing, but I was slowly starting to despise the rest of the teams in the league. One particular team, I hated the most was Manchester United. Not that I knew about the rivalry back then, but almost every student who watched football in my class supported them and would always talk about David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo, for Pete’s sake! By the end of the season, I was already a full-time Chelsea supporter. However, the moment Chelsea thrashed Manchester United by 3 goals at home to seal the back-to-back premier league titles, I bought my first ever oversized jersey with ‘Lampard 8’ imprinted on the back. (I had to mention “oversized” because I still wear that jersey to this date)

Days to months and months to years, my sentiments for this football club only grew bigger and better. Soon, the weekly matchdays turned into rituals and the club became an intrinsic part of my life. Reflecting back at my life as a Chelsea supporter brings a lot of memories. Along with those memories come flooding emotions, joys and also heartbreaks. Obviously, the 2012 Champions League Final at Munich was the most special moment for me as the club supporter. But the fairytale moments to reach the final were second to none. The unbelievable comeback against Napoli, Meireles’ sensational strike against Benfica, Ramires’ chip over Valdes to secure the spot in the final – man, oh man, these memories gives me goosebumps everytime I think of them! My other personal favorite moments as a fan has to be the win against Manchester United in 2005/06 to secure the title, the dramatic league double in Ancelotti era, Luiz’s thunderbolt against Fulham, 2012 FA Cup Semi-Final against Tottenham, 2012/13 Europa League Final, Capital One Cup tie against Manchester United in 2012/13, Jose’s celebration against Liverpool, Steven Gerrard’s slip, and humiliating ‘The Special One’ on his return to Bridge as Manchester United manager. However, with these joyful memories, countless heartbreaks are obvious. The Champions League Final in Moscow has to be the most haunting moment in my life as a fan. I remember feeling devastated and breaking down in tears that night. The infamous semi-final tie against Barcelona (It’s a f*cking disgrace), Falcao’s hattrick in the UEFA Supercup, Bayern stealing the Supercup with only 10 seconds in the clock, finishing 10th in the league, are some memories of agony and heartbreaks.

My introduction to Chelsea Nepal was a long time back. I actually do not remember the year, but I can vividly remember it was much much smaller than it is today (500-600 members, maybe). One of my childhood friend, Mr. Tej Dangol, who also happens to share a similar passion for the club, added me to this amazing family. To be honest, my involvement in this group has been fairly limited and my appearance in the group events have been almost nil. However, one of the most memorable moment I recall celebrating with Chelsea Nepal’s fellow members was the live screening of Chelsea vs Manchester United (The Special One’s Homecoming) in 2016 at Fashion Delicacy. Chelsea humiliated Jose and his ‘biggest club in the world’ with four goals to nil and the whole crowd was going absolutely nuts. We sang “Blue is the Color,” “Chelsea, Chelsea, Chelsea,” and “Jose Mourinho.” It was an unbelievable night, the atmosphere was sensational and the result was simply amazing.

Honestly, I still can’t believe it’s been almost 15 years since I started supporting this football club. I seriously think it is an understatement to say my experience over the years as a fan has been a roller coaster. At times, I wonder if an actual roller coaster has as many highs and lows as Chelsea supporters do. From becoming one of the most successful clubs in England over the decade to becoming the worst title defenders in the league’s history. From winning tons of silverware year after year to sacking dozens of managers every other year. From signing top class players every transfer windows to panic buying mediocre players to fill the squad. From scouting young players with the top potential to utterly failing the loan system. I have seen it all as a fan! I’ve been through all the highs and the lows of this football club yet I can never get enough of it! I may scream and celebrate like an idiot or I may roll over in frustration. I may sing in every glory of this football club or I may break down and cry in heartbreak. In the life of a football fan, consistency may not be the right term since the win and loss is inevitable. But what remains constant, is the love, affection, and the passion for the club.

“Neel Salam”

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