Tag Archives: chelsea fc

Racist thugs on Paris subway platform do not represent Chelsea FC supporters: #ktbffh

Pick a football site, any football site. Right now the raging topic of discussion is the abominably racist behavior of some Chelsea fans on a Paris subway platform in advance of the club’s Champions League Round of 16 match vs. Paris St. Germaine yesterday. What the heck, try The Guardian.

Many of you know that I’m a Chelsea supporter. And if you know football, you know that the Blues have a history. Their legendary hooligans, the Headhunters, rated their own chapter in How Soccer Explains the World, and if you go back a few decades you’ll learn that once upon a time the racism infesting the club’s fan culture was so vile that they abused their own black player. Read more

At Chelsea, the Reality of Life Without a Striker Begins to Set In

Third place was always the smart bet for a team in transition; Torres and Eto’o are well past the point where they can contribute to an elite side

ALERT: If you’re a big Fernando Torres fan, you probably shouldn’t read any further.

For Chelsea Nation, today was disappointing.


The thing is, while I have enjoyed how well the Blues have played this year, not for a second have I thought they were likely to win the Prem (unless the other top sides simply handed it to them). I said before the year that the Blues were probably a third place team, and right now, with six games left, that prediction is probably the smart bet. Read more

(Shed End) Seattle Diary: I was wrong (and Mikel scores!)

Shed End Seattle

Last weekend I was near despair. As I wrote Sunday, I had marched forth in search of a Chelsea FC community here in my new city only to come up empty. Given the vibrance of the Rocky Mountain Blues supporters club in Denver, I was not exaggerating when I explained the emptiness and disappointment I was feeling.

Within a couple hours of posting my lament, I heard from Jason Smith, the man in charge of Shed End Seattle, the city’s main (and perhaps only – the existence of the Northwest Blues is very much in question at present) CFC group. Turns out the problem wasn’t with the club, it was with the pub – the George & Dragon has decided that it’s better for business if they show games on replay so they can space out their customers during the day. Ummm, yeah. If management is reading this, give me a call. There are some fundamental marketing principles that we need to talk about.

SES was working on the problem and has found a new place – the Market Arms in Ballard – that shows the games live. They were going to be there today. I signed up for the Facebook page and traded some comments with various members of the club, and it was with borderline frantic enthusiasm that I set off this morning to meet them in person and watch the Blues take on West London rival Fulham.

I try not to be wrong any more than I have to, but last week’s post was wrong, and as a result I’m as happy right now as I was despondent then. Jason and the rest of the crowd (pictured above, and bear with me – I’m terrible with names but I will get them all down eventually) turn out to be fantastic. (Since all they had seen of me was my current FB profile pic, they were surprised that I’m bald.) Knowledgable, enthusiastic, and they went out of their way to make the new guy feel welcome. I’m already looking forward to the next match (although since it’s a 4:30am start and the Arms seems unwilling to get up quite that early, we’ll probably be watching on replay).

The Arms, for its part, is a legit pub (the full English is recommended).

While I was wrong last week about the existence of a CFC community here, the rest stands. The RMBs are a special group and I hope they never lose sight of how great they have it. With luck I’ll find the same kinds of friendships here.

Oh yeah, and John Obi Mikel scored the capper today. For you throwball fans, Mikel finds the back of the net about as often as your average backup offensive tackle gallops 99 yards for a touchdown. I predicted that this was the year it would finally happen, though, and to celebrate I stripped and streaked down Market St. I’m not sure if anyone got video, but if they did let me know and we’ll post it for the entertainment of the RMBs and beefcake-loving women everywhere.

We do have this video, though.


Conspiracy theory: did Wayne Rooney and David Moyes play Jose Mourinho?

Periodically friends will accuse me of being “pure evil.” I cherish these moments, and am proud of the fact that my mind goes where no demented mind has gone before. But it can be something of a plague, because there’s this part of me that thinks if I’m that sinister, other people must be, too. This quality has not rendered me the most trusting of people, I fear.

Anyhow, if you follow football (not throwball, but football of the global variety, or “soccer,” as you Yanks insist on calling it), you know that one of the protracted dramas of the summer transfer season was Chelsea FC’s pursuit of Manchester United’s star forward, Wayne Rooney (aka “Shrek”). The Blues needed a proven presence up top, and Rooney was disenchanted both with ManUre in general and with incoming manager David Moyes in particular. Shrek played for Moyes back when he was at Everton, and apparently is not fond of the man.

Rooney made clear that he wanted out, Moyes and the club made clear that he wasn’t for sale, and along the way the manager uttered some words in a presser that he insists were taken out of context, but that nonetheless were interpreted by the English football press as indicating that Rooney was to MU’s plans as horse droppings are to work shoes.

And the game was afoot.

Of course, in the end, when nothing was really moving, Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho put it out there that in order for the deal to get done Rooney needed to step up and put in a formal transfer request to force United’s hand. Rooney didn’t, and CFC wound up with Plan B, Cameroon’s is-he-over-the-hill-or-not striker Samuel Eto’o instead. For American football fans who are having a hard time following the implications here, this is kinda like you were hoping to land Drew Brees and wound up with Donovan McNabb.

All summer I wondered aloud whether Mourinho, a consummate mind-gamer, actually wanted Rooney or if he was simply fucking with Moyes’s head. Or a bit of both.

Tonight I found myself in pure evil mode, wondering the very opposite: what if it was Mou being played like a four-Euro banjo?

Here’s the scenario. Moyes takes over at MU from Everton. He’s been around the block and knows that Mourinho, taking the helm at Chelsea, is a) in dire need of a new top-tier striker, and b) as noted above, a world-class agitator. So he goes to Rooney and says a) you’re critical to my plans and I want you here no matter what, and b) let’s fuck over Mourinho. Shrek says … well, he probably asks if Moyes’s grandmother is dating anyone at the moment, but that’s another post for another day.

So Rooney suggests, within earshot of a reporter, that he is not entirely enchanted with the idea of playing for Moyes, whom he considers to be a sheep-shagger of the first order. Mourinho sees an opening and dives in.

And the summer-long drama unfolds, with Roo sending out regular come-get-me signals and Chelsea making increasingly lavish offers for his services. United has a bit of sport with the whole thing, not only rejecting the various offers but at one point demanding not only outrageous sums of money, but also Chelsea’s best players in return. (Yes, you can have Brees. For Peyton Manning, Von Miller and three #1 picks.)

Meanwhile, Chelsea swallows the hook and goes all-in. Instead of hedging their bets by lining up a deal for another top-flight striker, should the Shrek deal tank on them, they convince themselves that it’s as good as done and forego the groundwork necessary to land a respectable Plan B.

In the end, Rooney wusses out and decides to stay, leaving Mourinho standing in the rain holding his nutsack (aka Eto’o, who was hell on two legs four years ago but after pissing away the last couple of years in Siberia is, ummm, on the back nine of his career).

That’s the conspiracy theory.

Now, let’s be clear – I have zero evidence that this is what happened. As I said before, I’m occasionally just evil enough to pull some shit like this and it makes me paranoid that others might be, too.

So, you’re wondering: is there reason to believe that this isn’t at all what happened? Yes. A couple things leap to mind.

First, the timing. If you were going to pull this, you’d wait until the last possible second to pull out, making sure that your trollee had no time at all to react. That isn’t what happened. It became clear a few days before the transfer window closed that Rooney wasn’t going to go through with it, and had Chelsea not had all its eggs in that basket they might have been able to get in for a suitable alternative.

Second, there was the whole Ander Herrera debacle, where the Yes Men apparently showed up at Athletic Bilbao to “negotiate” on United’s behalf. You can’t possibly think the people behind one of the sport’s greatest Keystone Kops episodes was also evil genius enough to shank the Special One.

Verdict: probably not. Still, it’s never a bad thing to remind yourself that there are scheming, evil motherfuckers out there looking to screw you to the wall. Assume that they’re at least as smart as you are and plan accordingly.

Meanwhile, Mourinho has to figure out how to turn the combination of Fernando Torres, Eto’o and Demba Ba into something resembling a real strike force. Whether he got played by Moyes or he played himself, he’s now got his work cut out for him.

Seattle Diary: if you have a community, do not take it for granted

When my marriage fell apart in 2010 I quickly realized just how much of my social life was tied to my wife’s friends and family. I had friends of my own, of course, but most were married with families, or they lived way the hell out in the ‘burbs. Very few were of the “let’s go grab a quick beer” variety, so the result was that I spent a lot of time alone.

Let me amend that. I spent all of my time alone. And given the upheaval that divorce represents, not just in your routine, but in your soul and in your psyche, it’s probably safe to say that I have never felt quite so totally alone in life. Her family had become my family, and all of a sudden my family was taken from me. No family. No tribe. No community.

In some respects alone was helpful. I needed to reconnect with the guy I had lost over several years of dysfunctional marriage, and time with my thoughts was important. But I’m a social person and I needed human contact, too.

Then I stumbled into something. I’m a huge Chelsea FC fan and I started looking around for a place to watch the games. Some were on cable, but a) not all, and b) that channel wasn’t in HD. A bit of snooping online revealed that the British Bulldog carried Chelsea matches and was only seven blocks away from my new apartment.

I pulled on my strip, biked down the hill, and walked in…to a sea of blue. I believe it might have been the FA Cup semis, and the place was packed with Chelsea supporters. So packed it was all I could to find a place to sit and order breakfast.

I didn’t know it yet, but I had just found some community.

I sought out the leader of the operation, Peter Wohelski, got signed up on the Facebook page, and began meeting other members. And over the coming weeks and months, as I became more integrated into things, the Rocky Mountain Blues became more than a group of people to watch the games with. Many of them became friends. People I could talk to. People I could grab lunch or a beer with. People whose importance in my life went well past game day.

I was a bit less alone.

Fast forward to my move, three weeks ago, to Seattle. I hated the thought of leaving the RMBs, and just as a new season was starting, no less. I had invested a great deal in the community and it hurt to leave it. But at least I was moving to a city famous for its football culture. And Seattle had not one, but two CFC supporters groups. While they would never be the RMBs, at least I had a point of interest where I could meet some new folks.

Shed End Seattle meets at a place called the George and Dragon, and they’re the independent club up here. I decided to start there. I checked the G&D Web site Friday only to see that the game apparently wasn’t being carried live. I called and was told no, they were showing it on replay in the afternoon. The woman I spoke with indicated that they liked to spread the games out for business reasons.

Ummm. WTF? The game was this morning and we all know what happened, but let’s get together and watch the replay at 3? You can’t be serious.

So I then called Fado, home of the Northwest Blues (the local affiliate of the vast Chelsea in America network). Yep – game will be on live. Okay, there we go. So I arrive downtown, park, walk a couple blocks, and head into…this:

Northwest BluesAgain, WTF? I was in the right place. It’s a big pub so I thought maybe the NWBs were in a room in the back. No, I was told, you’re the only one here.

Wow. Well, I’m here and I’m hungry, so I parked at a table and had breakfast (the corned beef hash was excellent, btw). I talked with bartender a bit and he said that the Chelsea crowd hadn’t been very good lately. They had a few in for the first game of the season, but he doesn’t know what’s happened. Maybe their leader left or something.

So here’s the situation. In the most vibrant soccer culture in North America, a place where the MLS team outdraws the baseball team (by something like 2-to-1), it doesn’t look like there’s going to be a Chelsea community for me. I might go up and check out the Shed End crew, but I can’t imagine how you can build much of an emotional connection to, you know, watching a replay. And as for the Northwest Blues…well, you can’t build a community with empty barstools.

And so, here I am in a new city, and the process of finding a tribe begins afresh.

To my RMB friends back in Denver: I don’t know that all of you fully appreciate what we have built there. If I live to be a million I’ll never forget the 2012 Champions League final, which may have been the most exciting moment in my sports fan life. I’ll remember 20+ of us in the Dog for a 5:30am Sunday kick. I’ll remember waking up Ronan MacScottie and driving up to Boulder to watch the Blues in the Club championships in Japan last year at Michael Leaves’s shop. I’ll cherish the chance I was afforded to serve on the executive board.

Sure, I’ll be on the Facebook page and online for the games each weekend. But it looks like I’ll be doing that from my couch instead of from a local pub with my new friends.

It goes without saying that it won’t be the same.

Rocky Mountain Blues



ESPN FC asks: Can you call yourself a soccer fan if you don’t support MLS? Yes I can.

CATEGORY: SportsThe American soccer sphere has been abuzz these last couple of days thanks to a question that first popped up on Alexi Lalas’s Twitter feed:

Last night this was discussed: If you live in the U.S., can you call yourself a “soccer fan” even if you don’t support @MLS?

The question gets a thorough working over in an article posted on ESPN FC yesterday.

I fear this barb is aimed at me, and at fans like me, because we are not appropriately MLS-centric. The fact is that a lot of American football fans pay far more attention to bigger leagues abroad. The English Premiership is the big dog, owing to the fact that it’s the best league in the world, period. Other popular leagues include Spain (La Liga features two of the world’s great clubs in Barcelona and Real Madrid), Italy (Serie A), Germany (the Bundesliga would be bigger if it had a better broadcast deal over here) and Mexico (which feeds on our country’s booming Mexican-American population).

The quality of MLS play is certainly getting better with each passing year, and more and more players are making the leap to bigger leagues in Europe. Every time Clint Dempsey scores for Spurs, every time Jozy Altidore adds to his tally in Holland, every time a Brek Shea or Kei Kamara prove they belong in the Premiership, international regard for America and MLS ratchets up another notch. Commissioner Don Garber recently lamented that “respect for Major League Soccer is greater abroad than it is among the soccer community in the United States.”

Whether Lalas is legitimately pissed off or is just trying to motivate American fans, he’s stomping hard.

Hypocrisy is a constant thread through many American soccer fans’ attitudes,” he said. “I can’t make people follow MLS but I can point out their hypocrisy. If they do want to call themselves American soccer fans and support the national team, I hope that part of them wants the sport to succeed in the United States, and for that to happen, they have to be part of solution by supporting local soccer.

He goes on to argue that MLS is superior to much of what we consider elite elsewhere (an interesting proposition, to be sure) and says that it’s the most competitive league in the world. Well, maybe. A salary cap will create competition and parity, if not always excellence. A lot of teams go into the season thinking they have a chance to win it all. And they do, because the MLS is typical of American sports leagues. The regular season is next to meaningless, serving no purpose other than to generate revenue and seed a playoff system that all too often hands the big trophy at the end to a club that scuffed its way through the season and barely made it into the dance. In Europe if you win the regular season, you’re the champion. Over here, if you’re the best team over the course of the full 35 or so games, you get the opportunity to be upset in the first round and watch the rest of the playoffs on TV.

So “competitive” isn’t necessarily the ultimate in criteria. Just saying.

Here’s my issue. do support MLS. I watch the games on TV (last weekend I caught the season opener for my wretched Rapids and also the Portland/NY match, which was exciting as hell; as I type I’m halfway watching the New England/Chicago match). I go to the occasional game here, as well. I even watch CONCACAF Champions League matches featuring MLS teams that I hate vs. Central American sides I’ve barely heard of.

The tone of the ESPN article makes clear, though, that isn’t good enough. By their reckoning, I’m clearly being dumped into the category of “Euro snob.” Earlier today I caught the end of the Manchester City/Barnsley FA Cup tie. Later I watched a replay of today’s Norwich/Southampton match followed by the West Brom/Swansea rerun. I routinely get up on Saturday and Sunday mornings so as to catch Chelsea matches that start as early as 5am. Heck, I got up and drove to Boulder for a 3:30am kick in the Club World Cup a few months ago. I never miss a match (our supporters club gets together at the British Bulldog, which opens for the games, no matter what time they’re on), and last summer a group of us went to Seattle to see the Blues playing the Sounders in their annual pre-season tour.

Read those last two paragraphs again and answer me this: if I’m not a soccer fan, then what am I?

I understand wanting the US game to thrive – I want that, too. Not long ago I even wrote a five-part series on why soccer will eventually be bigger than American football here in the US. MLS believes it can be one of the top leagues in the world within 10 years, and while I think that’s ambitious, nothing would make me happier. (I also hope that the Rapids are good by then.)

I appreciate the passion of guys like Alexi Lalas, who was one of my favorites when he was a player and whom I continue to enjoy as an analyst and a promoter. I also appreciate how agitating and provoking in articles like the ESPN FC piece can make a point and draw attention to your cause.

That said, bite me. Suggesting that I’m not a soccer fan if I don’t support MLS above all other leagues is like saying I’m not a basketball fan if I prefer the NBA to Division III.

So yes, I can call myself a soccer fan. If you have a problem with that, then you’re probably something of a wanker.

Guardiola says no thanks to Chelsea, heads to Bayern – what now, Roman?

Roman Abramovich’s top choice to be the next Chelsea manager, Pep Guardiola, is heading to Munich.

Bayern Munich on Wednesday officially announced it had hired Pep Guardiola to coach next season for an undisclosed salary over three years.

Guardiola, who is the first Spanish manager of Bayern Munich since the club’s promotion to the Bundelisga in 1965, had been linked with Premier League teams Chelsea and Manchester City as well as AC Milan in the past weeks.

What happens now?

If the remainder of the current season goes well and the team perhaps wins a trophy (FA Cup, anyone?), does he stick with Fat Spanish Waiter Rafa Benitez, despite the supporters’ hatred of him? Does he pick up the phone and promise his old friend Jose Mourinho that if he’ll come back he can run the squad without any meddling from the top? If not, what choices remain? Abramovich has alienated or scared off pretty much every potential candidate in the world with his insistence on “attractive football,” his constant “helping” with personnel and his impatience with managers who occasionally lose a game or two?

CATEGORY: SportsIt will be interesting to see if Roman learns anything from l’affaire Guardiola. Chelsea has precisely the kinds of players that Pep likes. Pep has said he dreams of managing in England. Roman has chased him and is rumored to have offered him double what anyone else is paying. And STILL Pep says no. At this point, a man whose intelligence exceeds his arrogance might pause and do some soul-searching, perhaps even listening to those who keep telling him that his policy of turfing managers every couple of weeks is scaring away the good candidates.

My gut says no, Roman doesn’t learn a thing. One doesn’t become a multibillionaire oil magnate without a massive ego, and without putting too fine a point on it, he made his bones in a field that sometimes prefers strength to intellect and that perhaps undervalues the merits of reflection. (There – did I put that delicately enough?)

Time will tell. I’d love to think that this opens the door for a triumphant Mou return, but I’m not holding my breath.

Image Credit: ESPN FC

Mr. Booth goes to the theater, ESPN FC fails to mention that assassination thing: sports “journalism” strikes again

Chicharito celebrates offside winner

It’s no secret to Chelsea fans that the sporting press, such as it is, does not love us overmuch. Time and again, whether we’re reading a match report or an  editorial “analysis” or listening to in-game commentary, we’re confronted with “journalists” who seem on the verge of bursting into song every time something bad happens to our side.

Fine. I can deal with this, and in a way it’s a badge of honor. Nobody bothers working up much in the way of snark or venom if you’re bottom of the table, do they? Still, as a guy who has been a journalism professor, it galls me at a professional level to see the media simply ignore the facts. Read more