I often get asked how I became a Chelsea FC supporter. Some Arsenal loving friends of mine love to give me stick about the love affair starting when Roman Abramovic bought the club from Ken Bates. But nothing could be further from the truth.
You see in the early 90s I watched a lot of Italian football and as a result I became rather familiar with a lot of players plying their trade in Serie A. So I began watching English football around 1996. Ruud Gullit was in charge of Chelsea at the time and he brought in the likes of Roberto Di Matteo, Gianfranco Zola and Gianluca Vialli.
I immediately fell in love with the club as the Italians were only players I easily recognised.
But up until this year, I had actually never watched the Blues playing at Stamford Bridge. I’d watched them beat Manchester United 1-0 at Old Trafford in 2013. As satisfactory as that win was, I still wanted to watch them play at the Bridge.
And so at the turn of the year, I thought that a trip to London to watch my favourite team would make a great birthday present. But as I perused the fixture list, there were no high profile clashes scheduled for the 25th of April, but Man City would be paying us a vising early in the month of April. So I figured I would just celebrate a little early. And with my wife’s and close friend’s help the flights and match tickets were booked.
But my first game at the home of the Blues would come earlier than expected, it fell on April fool’s day. I looked forward to the clash against Crystal Palace, but the result did not go our way as we lost 2-1. But a few days later, I got a fantastic birthday gift when I watched the boys from the upper west stand as they beat Manchester City 2-1.
So I was content with seeing my beloved Blues as they made a genuine charge for their fifth Premier League title. But to my surprise I would be back in London just a few weeks later to watch them play their first home game after securing the title. Shield, South Africa’s #1 selling deodorant brand were announcing a partnership with Chelsea Football Club and I travelled with them. I was fortunate to watch the legendary John Terry score his last goal for the mighty Blues as we went on to beat Watford 4-3.
Though we missed out on a league and cup double (I won’t say much about the FA Cup final) I would say we had a pretty successful season.
We are back if the Champions League and I can’t wait to see how Don Conte is going to tackle this great challenge. But one thing I do know is that my love affair with this great club started because of a few Italians and I am glad that my first set of games at the Bridge coincided with an Italian coach leading us to league glory.
Scenderà su di voi azzurri!!!