A place for the fans

As the dust settles on Chelsea’s first-ever pre-season visit to Singapore, there’s time to finally reflect on what has been an extraordinary seven days for Blues fans in the Lion City.

While there are many supporters from our tiny city state who have been fortunate enough to watch our team playing elsewhere in the past, it was still a great feeling to have Antonio Conte’s side in our hometown, to witness first-hand the adulation in which they are held more than 10,000 kilometres away from Stamford Bridge.

The results of our matches against Bayern Munich and Inter Milan at the International Champion Cup Singapore may not have gone as we had hoped but there were still a lot of positives to take from the week that they spent in our little corner of the world.

For the first team, there was a full week of intensive training and a good pair of competitive games to gear up for the rigours of the season ahead.

For the club, there was an opportunity to engage with our fans and partners and to build on the growing passion for the Blues in this part of the world.

And for supporters, there was the chance to watch our heroes in action and to join together with fellow Chelsea fans in showing their love for the club.

As a journalist, I was in a privileged position to watch both of our games at the National Stadium, to be given access to the players for interviews, to attend open training and to be invited for sponsor-related activities during the tour.

However, those are not the things I will remember most from the Tour of the Champions. Instead, it is the wonderful time that I spent in the fanzone next to the National Stadium during the hours leading up to each match, interacting with fellow Blues, young and old from near and far.

Despite the blistering afternoon heat and high humidity, the fanzone was thronged with humanity from nearly four hours before kick-off, the vast majority of whom were clad in royal blue.

They stood for over an hour in the long and snaking queue to have their picture taken with the Premier League trophy, sang along gustily as the Chelsea Foundation coaches led them in familiar club anthems, posed for photos with our mascots Stamford and Bridget, and interacted with one another on their shared passion for a football club.

Tasked with handing out tour programmes, wristbands and lanyards on those balmy afternoons, I met children, adults and seniors who had travelled in from Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, China, Japan, Korea, Australia, India, the United States and the United Kingdom to watch the games, smiling as they accepted their special gifts from the club.

In the middle of the ever-expanding throng, I met Henry, who had flown in from London to follow the club he has supported for well over half a century. 

A supporter of the club since the reign of Ted Drake in the late 1950s, Henry has seen it all as a Chelsea fan during his lifetime. However, he could only marvel at what he saw unfolding around him as fans of different ages and nationalities joined in a rousing rendition of ‘Blue is the Colour’.

Very few of us would have been around for as long as Henry has supported the Blues but for him, that didn’t seem to matter at all. What was important, whether they had been supporting the club for 50 years or 50 months or 50 days, is that in that packed fanzone, they were all part of the Chelsea family.

Long may they remain so.