Chelsea Nepal is what brought me closer to Chelsea. Before that, it was just watching games, wearing a kit, too afraid to post anything about football. But I understood Chelsea and football through the posts in the group.
Most stories I have read so far, begin with Michael Ballack or the Mourinho era or King Drogba. Me, however, “”I ain’t got no history”. To any Chelsea fan, the most amazing memory would always be 19.05.2012. Considering my journey began on 2013, I totally missed out on that, and a lot more.
Football had always been in my life. I spent most of my childhood in my mamaghar, and my mamas were obsessed with sports. Ram Mama would always tune in to cricket and Kiran mama would always have football on the tv whenever he had the chance. His room was full of medals and jerseys from the local clubs and trousers with Barcelona logos. I was so young I could hardly separate teams or leagues back then, but staying with him helped me understand the basics : what’s a goal, when to be happy when a goal is scored and when to be sad. But then I came back to my home where we didn’t have a cable network for years to come, and the only time I would get to watch football in my mamaghar would be during the World Cup.
Though I watched a few games here and there with Kiran mama, I never knew much about the football that happened between the World Cup and Euro Cup, the games you didn’t have to wait 4 years for. I would often see people fighting in the college facebook group about clubs, but I never knew much. I only watched the few club games mama tuned into while I stayed, mostly those of Barcelona.
In 2012 Euro, because there was no Brazil which I supported in World Cup, I had to choose a side. Since Kiran mama chose Spain, I went with it. Now I recognised some big names and faces from Barcelona, so it was easier for me to support them and to hope Spain wins. But one player in particular, that I hadn’t heard much of before, whose name everyone was starting to use a lot was : Fernando Torres. Everyone in the college facebook group talked about him at that time, they even had kits with his name as their profile pictures. When I watched him play, I knew what the fuss was all about. Maybe it was the hype back then, or may be he was that good, but in a few Euro Cup nights, I got a good impression of him.
In 2013, I was having a hard time in life. Not getting a medicine scholarship, having to lose a year had frustrated me. After my morning entrance preparation classes, I had my days entirely to myself and would be home alone, nothing to do. More of a radio person before, I shifted to TV then. Too confused about what to watch, I tuned in to Sports channel, realised you can watch as much football as you want any time of the year, and so I watched. All day long, I watched repeats, highlights, “Football Today”. Even on YouTube I’d just watch Football funny videos. Somehow it helped me, to deal with all that frustration. And when I saw Torres in Chelsea colours, I knew which side to choose.
Now saying I followed Chelsea because of Torres, not Ballack or Lampard or Drogba ( like most people say) would sound like proving the mainstream “girls watch football for handsome players” theory; but in my case it just happened that way. I could have even ended up a Barcelona fan after the Euros, who knows. But here I am, that’s just how destiny works.
At that moment, Fernando Torres was the best player in the world for me. Then he went out of form and everyone was against him. When I look at my old posts, I laugh because I was one of those fans who fought with anyone who mocked Torres, who defended him even when he kept having bad games, who would be angry at people for making “miss” jokes. But then, what is the point if your favourite player, a striker, does not score; If your favourite club does not win? What is the point of sticking by their side blindly, hoping they will be back in form one day, when even you know the club needs someone better. One day I just grew tired of defending him, wished he got transferred. He did not stop being my favourite player, but I realised it was time for him to leave for the good of both the club and himself. That was the moment I understood that a club means more than a single player, even if the player is your favourite, even if he was the reason you started wearing the club’s colours in the first place.
Somewhere around 2013-2014 I bought my first Chelsea kit. For a while I had been skipping lunch and saving money, and I had almost 1000 Rs. ready. I hardly bought anything for myself, I was very shy about talking to shopkeepers, but somehow I gathered the courage and money and went off to buy a Chelsea kit. I only knew mama bought it somewhere in Baneshwor, had no idea how much it cost, so I checked every shop until I found and bought my first one. I came home, clicked a picture in it, uploaded it. Then Barun bhai, who knew me from college, after seeing that picture I think, added me to Chelsea Nepal.
Chelsea Nepal is what brought me closer to Chelsea. Before that, it was just watching games, wearing a kit, too afraid to post anything about football. But I understood Chelsea and football through the posts in the group. I would watch the highlights of games they talked about, I would live those amazing moments for the first time, though a little late. Even to this day, everytime I see a video or a match fact from before I started supporting, I jump into it because I know there is so much of Chelsea, so much of football out there that I missed. I didn’t post much back then, but I read every post and every comment, I searched on google and YouTube about everything I didn’t know; you could say I basically studied football on the Internet. I grew up in the group reading informations, long posts, discussion threads, arguments, and also sarcastic comments from Binay dai, Navin dai, Barun bhai and other names I seem to have forgotten. If you ever find some sense of humor in me, credit goes to them.
The first girl I noticed in the group was Deepti didi. I mostly hid behind posts ( too afraid to say anything and make a mistake and look dumb ) or all I ever posted back then was defending Torres, but seeing her pictures from events made me want to be a part of much more. So one day I ended up at a Chelsea Nepal ladies futsal game against those of Liverpool. That was the first time I had been even outside around a futsal in my life, and though we miserably lost against them, us scoring 6 or 7 and them scoring double of that , I remembered someone, Matina. She scored most of the goals that day, and she was levels above the rest. For me, she was the best woman footballer I had ever seen. Even to this day, I call her “Hazard”. That day after the game we all went around to Patan durbar square, clicked pictures, made “CFC” on the ground with our bodies and what not. I had fun, I had found a family.
After that, someone asked me to join the ladies team. I had never played football in my life before, I knew I could hardly pass the ball. I said that, but the “coach dai”s were determined to teach me from zero. Sumit dai was back in India and he asked me to watch YouTube tutorials and told me to buy a ball and play on my terrace. My parents were pissed that I went from kits and posters to buying an actual football, but I kind of liked this new life. Even when I fell on the terrace practicing and got a bruise, I hid it, afraid they would throw the ball away. I don’t know how you teach someone to play football through facebook chats, but Sumit dai did exactly that. And so he will always be my first coach.
As soon as I finished classes, I would run off to BG brothers futsal. I wore the kit from inside whatever I wore to college because my mother didn’t want me to play football and break my leg or my face. I often reached early because I probably was the only one with nothing else to do, and I would just take a ball and practise shooting at an empty post. Sometimes the didi from canteen would come and shoot with me. I was really, really bad at shooting. I was bad at defending too, scored two own goals in practice games, but then some months back I couldn’t even pass a ball, so that was kind of an improvement. One day when Matina was late to training, I played up front alongside Pragya and I don’t know how but I scored a goal and went on to do a Torres celebration. One of the best moments of my life.
During the World Cup 2014, all futsals were packed and we resorted to practising at Tudikhel. BG brothers was my comfort zone, but I was not so sure about Tudikhel. I was afraid of the mocking. The strangers, they would mock us when we went to Kathmandu Mall, changed clothes and walked out in Brazil and England kits with a ball, they would mock us while we ran circles in the huge ground. But when Sanjay dai is telling you that he would tie his shoelaces and run after you after giving you a headstart, and if he got to you even then, you would have to do an extra lap; you tend to forget about the mocking. I loved trainings but I hated running, and I kind of hated Sanjay dai for making us run all around Tudikhel. But then one day in training, when I was playing against Matina and I succeeded at outpacing her and blocking her shot to my own surprise, I thanked him and Salil dai in my head. I hardly played 5 minutes against Barca Nepal ladies in our 6-1 victory, and I have hardly ever touched a football ever since, being stuck in Bangladesh after that, but those trainings are some memories to cherish.
When asked about their favourite games, most Chelsea fans would say the Champions League final we won. And though I have watched it over and over in YouTube, and cried over the videos, I can’t deny the fact that I missed that historical moment. Back when Chelsea won it, I probably didn’t even know what a Champions League is. My favourite season was 2014-15, mostly because it was the first Premier League win I witnessed ever since supporting, but also because I had the chance to watch Drogba play and lift a Trophy in Chelsea colours in real time, something I always regretted missing. I watched most of that season and the following in my new hostel, buying data packs which weren’t cheap, because we didn’t have wifi. But it was money well spent. I became somewhat of a live streaming encyclopedia with all that struggle.
A sad moment as a Chelsea fan would be the night Lampard scored against us. Seeing him in Manchester City colours was already painful enough, watching him play was even more, but seeing him score past us made me numb. Even before the game began, I was scared about it. When it happened, I was right in front of the tv, on my knees, just staring at the screen and I didn’t know what to say or post. Numb, as I said earlier.
One of my most memorable games is the time we thrashed Arsenal 6-0. There was this friend’s birthday party in some lounge in Durbarmarg, completely out of my league. And though I wanted to just stay home and watch the game, I had to be there. To my surprise, they had this big screen there and were tuning in to Premier League. I didn’t have to miss the game after all. I sneaked aside from the party and stood before the screen, waiting for Kickoff. Then came this Manchester United fan who after knowing whom I was supporting, started saying that Chelsea were going to lose. I told him that Mourinho has not lost a game at the bridge and it wasn’t going to happen on that night either. He just hit more banters and went off to the party. As the game began, they were cutting cakes, and they put some on my face too (as my birthday was the next day). By the time I washed my face and came back, I had missed two goals. Then Gibbs was sent off instead of Ox and Hazard scored the penalty, Oscar scored two more, Torres assisting one of those If I remember, and Salah scored his first goal for Chelsea and bowed to the ground. I remember it so vividly. Everytime someone scored, I would yell, jump, then run off, find the guy and tell him the score. The look on his face made that win even more amazing. By the time it was 6-0, I couldn’t find him anymore. I was so busy in watching the game and the post match analysis, Liverpool warming up, that I completely forgot I had to go home. When I did remember, It was late, I couldn’t get any public bus, and my mom told me to walk all the way to Bhaktapur if that is what it took to get me home. Someone finally dropped me home and I got a hell lot of scolding but remembering that night, it was worth it.
Another recent favourite game has to be the 2-2 draw against Manchester United. Since I am not allowed to go out late, that game in the middle of this year’s Dashain was the first ever screening I attended. I had no clue about a single thing, the chairs were taller than me, and if Dipesh dai, Salil dai and Prarambha dai hadn’t noticed me and found me a seat, the chairs would have blocked my view. The place was basically all Manchester United, so as great as it felt when we scored the first one, it turned into a nightmare as we kept conceding. I had only ever watched Chelsea games in my room alone, and the idea of losing in that place was terrifying. The red devils had the louder voice, and the numbers. Prarambha dai kept saying we will soon score a goal, but we were into half past the added time and still there were no signs of scoring, and I had lost all hope. Then Barkley did his magic and all of a sudden every blue in the room had the bigger voice and we were jumping, chanting, going crazy, Gaurav bhai was capturing videos with one hand and showing the opponents a middle finger with another. That night I witnessed an environment, a magic of football I had been missing out on. I thought “why did I not do this before?”
Being a football fan is tough. But being a female football fan is even more scary. I am bringing this up as the story feels incomplete without mentioning this. You see all the “Girls who watch football are special” posts but in real life they doubt and question you so much, it does not feel that “Special”. Specially when your favourite player was someone who was also handsome by chance, you are bound to be mocked. Most would say you are a fake id, or a boy uses your account. Others would say you were doing it to get the attention of boys. And then some would ask you to name 10 football players other than Messi and Neymar, even when they themselves know less names than you. Someone once in a fight club group told me to go back to kitchen and Barun bhai had to tell him “tapai chai halo jotna janu” and removed him, that hilarious one I’ll never forget. For boys, its kind of a bonus. You could be a complete glory hunter and yet noone ever finds out or quizzes you, asks you to prove your loyalty or your love of the game. Its kind of sad and funny. This is the reason why, for a long time, I only read posts and never wrote anything anywhere about football; this is why I was, still am scared to go on TV and talk about football. Because if anyone else makes a tiny mistake, its a mistake. But if I do, it would be because I am a girl and the post/video would go viral. Most of the times its fun to watch people try to troll you and fail miserably, but then in the end I just want to be looked at as a normal football fan, a Chelsea fan, a Brazil fan, and not as a “special” girl who watches football.
Football in general, Chelsea and Chelsea Nepal has given me so much. I look at that glow on Kiran mama’s face when I’m home on vacations and he finally gets to talk about football with someone. I look at my mum who once told me to get married to Torres and live in London, because of all the posters on my walls, who is now proud of seeing me on TV because of just watching football ( thanks to Akriti di). I look at all that, I feel happy. Chelsea has often made me cry and angry but it also has been there for me when I had noone and nothing else. It has brought so many things and people to my life, and I am thankful for all of that. If I count, it has only been 5 or 6 years but I feel like I’ve been a blue for much longer.
(This story wasn’t supposed to be this long, personal and sentimental but that’s just what happens when I start writing.)
Like I said, I don’t have a history and I missed out on a lot of Chelsea’s victories and memories, but I am sure Chelsea will continue to create new ones for me. #KTBFFH