Wednesday 27 May 2015

Urban Diary

As soon as I get off at Victoria station I notice the buzz. The blue and white scarves, the Samsung logo emblazoned across the shirts. The District/Circle Line platform is alive with the sounds of victory chants. ¡Campeones, campeones, olé, olé, olé!. It might feel strange to hear Spanish words amongst the mainly Anglophone crowd but this is the Premier League we are talking about here, the multi-million pound business that makes globalisation feel real and palpable. Chelsea Football Club has a powerful Brazil-born Spanish striker up front, a no-nonsense Serbian midfielder sitting in front of the defence, a promising, up-and-coming Dutch left-back and a world-class Belgian goalkeeper. Only two of Chelsea’s all-conquering regular team were born in this country. Who cares, though? Today it is all about celebrating.

What was a trickle at Victoria station becomes a flood thronging out at the gates of Fulham Broadway tube station. The Royal blue flags are out and for a couple of square miles become the only sight to behold. Correction: the only beautiful sight to behold. As I take up my position behind one of the barriers to see the three open-top victory parade buses I scan the crowd. Standing next to the cockney-rhyming-slang Londoners are turbaned Sikhs, pram-pushing Eastern-European-looking men and hijab-wearing Muslim women. Families mill out and about, the atmosphere is more suitable to Alton Towers than Fulham Road. But this is modern football, served with a tall skinny latte.

The temperature cannot seem to make its mind up. My hoodie is pulled down and pulled back up in quick succession. I regret my decision not to wear anything Chelsea today. I console myself with the thought that since where I live is not an SW6 postcode I am being sensible by not standing out. But I feel jealous of my fellow supporters. I, too, have got the shirts, the jumpers and the hoodies. Back home.

Suddenly there is a roar. The first of the three buses appears at the top of the road. The blue flags are hoisted higher. The chants grow louder. Parents hug their children closer. Selfie sticks spring up. Smartphones are held aloft. The players wave from the bus. The crowd waves back. London shrinks.

© 2015

Photo by the blog author

Next Post: “Saturday Evenings: Stay In, Sit Up and Switch On”, to be published on Saturday 30th May at 6pm (GMT)


  1. Lovely. And how fascinating that sport can transcend some barriers - while creating others.

  2. Congrats! You took me there to the excitement but i so wish I was there in person!


    FIFA must live up to this extraordinary people's sport!!!

    ( '>

    ALOHA from Honolulu,

  4. Really brought the feeling to life, as the cheers ran wild.

  5. Beautifully written. Although the part about selfie sticks demonstrates how much technology can ruin a beautiful moment. Nothing like a little narcissism in the face of a beautiful event!

  6. Gran epoca tuvo el Chelsea, gano una temporada la Champions y a la otra la Europa League.

  7. Nationalism begins on athletic fields and culminates upon battlefields.

    I enjoy rooting for the home team as much as the next fellow, but never have been able to understand the fanaticism that followers of some sports in particular seem to bleed from their souls. I suppose some sports fans (probably many) live vicariously through certain athletes and certain teams, which might explain the depth of the emotions involved.

    Frankly, CiL, I was more caught up by your fine, descriptive writing than by the event being celebrated. Seriously, you might consider making a leap from education into journalism.

  8. Oh I get this - I don't follow football, but when England win the Ashes this summer, I'll be out there cheering ... (and possibly amazed ...)

  9. Expert piece of writing, Cuban, and obviously from the heart. However, I feel there is something out of balance when hear, see and read about over-the-top football worship, not to mention the money involved.

  10. Love the festive picture you paint.

  11. Nice article! Everyone loves a winning team.

  12. Well I was almost there, in the midst of the blue, experiencing the thrill.
    Nothing like sports (I think that is the only thing that brings nations together as of now)

  13. Wonderful celebration, thanks for sharing it with us. Interesting the multi-national crowd when compared to American sports where any player not from North America is an oddity. Baseball has drawn talent from Latin countries, and a few from Japan, but that's it. But then, I don't really know American professional soccer.

  14. I think it was Hemingway who once said that you should always include something about the weather in your writing. I'd say sports, especially football, kicks it up a notch or two. Great piece, ACIL!

  15. Thanks for your lovely comments. I really appreciate them.

    It is a funny business writing about sport and about a sport, like football, which is run like a public limited company in the UK. I have been a Chelsea supporter since '98 and when I speak to older supporters they usually express a mix of admiration and disappointment at the way football has gone. Admiration because regardless of the money that has been pumped into Chelsea by its rich billionaire Russian owner, Roman Abrahamovich, the squad and manager are the reason we have done so well in the league in recent years. On the pitch it is still eleven versus eleven. Disappointment because football clubs being run like businesses means that ticket prices remain prohibitively expensive. I have never been to Stamford Bridge to watch Chelsea play. I have been to the stadium, done the tour (for free!) as part of an event I was invited to but never been on the terraces joining in the chanting. By the way, it is the same for other sports, too. As a Yankees fan, I know that it's unlikely I will ever see them play. Just the flight will cost me a fortune. :-)

    Contrary to what many people think (especially taking into account the events in Paris earlier this season), Chelsea fans remain a mixed bunch. I lost count of how many black people, mixed race people, women, children, foreign-looking (like me) supporters I saw last Monday. It makes me proud to be a fan, too. I know that in the past some of the club's supporters had links to the extreme, right-wing, racist National Front and Combat 18 but I would say that that was and is more a reflection of society as such than the problem of just one football club like Chelsea, West Ham, Millwall or Spurs.

    Monday was a day to enjoy how far this club has come. Here's to more success in the years to come!

    Greetings from London,

  16. Ha--this was a very fun post. The only sports team I've ever counted myself a fan of was the NY Yankees, but that had almost as much to do with 9/11 as with baseball, but I once wandered into a NY Giants ticker tape parade after they won the super bowl. I just happened to live near the ticker tape area--it was a lot of fun--people were so happy--of course, you capture that here and more since football/soccer is such an international sport. Glad your team won! k.

  17. How exciting it all sounds!


  18. I am glad to see from what you say that Chelsea fans have changed their attitude. In the past I have taken them to be a rather unpleasant bunch of racists, and worse. Perhaps having a Russian owner and fielding so few English players has made them stop and think?

    Whatever, congratulations to the team on their achievement.

  19. Brilliant...and so atmospheric!
    I honestly felt as if I was actually there...could see the t shirts, hear the chants etc.
    I am not a football fan...but this was a truly enjoyable experience of "belonging" to something new.
    Thank you so much.
    My adored sport is F1...I wonder if you could write something about that someday?
    Would be brilliant too, I know! ;)

    Have a Fabulous Weekend.:))

  20. I think you may have missed your calling. You'd make a fantastic sports writer. (Come to think of it, just about ANY kind of writer...)

    Since I live in Atlanta, I can appreciate the feelings associated with a long-supported and long-losing team finally makes it to the top. When the Braves won its one and only World Series, this whole area went wild. We're still waiting for the Falcons and Hawks to do something other than choke in post-season play. And we're supposed to be getting a soccer team now, too, so maybe we have another chance to get all excited over something over which we have absolutely no control. Bizarre, isn't it? People who don't watch sports have no understanding of the draw. Heck, I DO watch them, and sometimes I wonder why...

    As for diversity, that's one of my favorite things about the Olympics. The teams from American aren't homogenized, if you know what I mean. It makes me proud to see what a melting pot our population really is.


  21. I agree with Susan, you wrote this so well. I could feel the excitement building with each line. Well done! Cheers from BC Canada. G



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