These are exciting times for anyone positively connected to Chelsea Football Club. Positively connected in the sense that I, for one, have friends whose mission in life seems to be Chelsea – bashing. Any whiff of bad news from Stamford Bridge, such as an injury to , say, Joe Cole, is celebrated with glee. And I have come across a lot of Chelsea – bashing in a lot of the British newspapers I read online. For such people, these definitely are not exciting times (unless you factor in the recent ban by FIFA).
But for some of us whose blood, by some unexplainable quirk of nature, have been turned blue, we are in for some really exciting times. Over the past three seasons, we have endured seeing the red side of Manchester win the league. I tell you that pain can be unbearable. I sometimes feel that fans in Africa are affected more by these events that take place thousands of miles away.
The followership of the EPL in Africa is unprecedented. It needs to be seen to be believed. Trust us, especially Nigerians. Our entrepreneurial instincts have been aroused and the EPL is now directly providing a veritable source of livelihood for thousands of families. Almost all villages in Nigeria, however remote, can boast of commercial viewing centres where the EPL matches are beamed live. If you took a walk on our streets on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon/evening, they would be so deserted and empty you would be forgiven in thinking that the Rapture had taken place!
So what is happening in Chelsea now is giving us hope that the agony of the past three seasons will be over and come May next year, the league diadem will be safely lodged in the trophy room at the Bridge. And our ‘brothers’ (Drogba, Essien, Mikel and Kalou) will play significant roles in making our wish come to pass.
But, to tell the truth, for us African fans the Champions League trophy is what we need to talk back at our friends who support the red side of Manchester. We have endured their taunting, their calling us the nearly men of Europe. In fact, we have had them up to here! A lot of fans (on both sides) lost their lives in Calabar (I was living in that beautiful city then), Lagos, Portharcourt and other cities all over Nigeria when we lost in the final of the CL to Man U two seasons ago. Yours truly had to remove the Chelsea logo in my car to avoid being attacked by the Man U mob gone mad in the name of triumphal celebrations!
Bottomline: it is high time we won that competition! The potential is undoubtedly there. I had to pause over the word ‘potential’ because I do not want to sound like Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger who has been talking about the ‘potential’ of his team for many seasons now. We have come close to winning the CL over the past four or five seasons. A combination of bad refereeing and hard luck have contrived to deny us. I have a feeling, a very strong one, that our luck (or the lack of it) has changed for better.
You may well ask what makes me think our luck has changed. Consider these: We have not won a penalty shootout in over a decade. Our luck changed in that respect when we beat Man U to win the Community Shield. We have not lost any player of note in this year’s transfer summer. This obviously means the core of the team is intact. And we have a coach who knows what it takes to win the competition. We have started the EPL well (100% so far) and some of our injured players like Joe Cole and Yuri Zhirkov are well on their road to full fitness.
Starting with FC Porto, we are in for some exciting times. I enjoin all true blues the world over, but especially Africans and Nigerians in particular to sit tight and enjoy the season. Something tells me the colour this season is blue.