Class Reunion

It wasn’t easy being a Chelsea fan in Singapore when I was in school in the 1980s.

At a time when the only teams that seemed to matter to my classmates were Liverpool and Manchester United, my allegiance to the Blues was usually greeted with scorn, derision and a fair amount of mickey-taking.

It didn’t help that the team was so inconsistent back then, able to convincingly beat Liverpool, United, Arsenal and Everton (when they were champions) on our good days but losing to teams at the time like Oxford, Watford, York City and Queen Park Rangers soon afterwards.

The fact is that I never really knew any other Chelsea fans here until a decade ago and had to either watch our games at home by myself or with my Man U supporting friends (which wasn’t such a bad thing when Didier Drogba scored against them to win the 2007 FA Cup final).

That situation changed about a decade ago when an intrepid group of local supporters got together to form a new supporters’ club in Singapore.

It wasn’t the first attempt to get an official Chelsea FC Supporters’ Club going in the Lion City but after previous false starts, this one got off the ground thanks to the hard work and dedication of its members, ably led by long-time supporter Allan Chan, the club’s first president.

Rallying local Blues fans together in those pre-Facebook days through an active bulletin board, we would regularly gather to cheer on the Blues – celebrating our wins, sharing in the disappointment when we lost and relishing in the glory as we watched John Terry lifting yet another trophy.

As the years went by, the venues of our live screenings shifted from location to location, members came and went, and the pioneer committee gradually made way for a younger generation of supporters who had more time and energy to devote to the cause of rallying Chelsea fans here.

Last weekend, the club celebrated its 10th anniversary and in a nice nod to the past, the current committee reached out to their predecessors, inviting many of them to the anniversary party at Clarke Quay, which was also attended by Chelsea’s club secretary, David Barnard, and head of communications and public affairs, Steve Atkins.

While the elderly Allan Chan was unable to attend the gathering, it was great to see the old-timers like Andy Loong, Henry Kang, Jonathan Lim, Yew Wah Ow and Jeffrey Lee – who all played their part in building up the supporters’ club in those difficult early years – coming down to mark the special occasion.

It felt like a class reunion as they swapped stories about the old times and updated each other about the families, jobs and responsibilities which prevented them from devoting as much time to they once had to the supporters’ club.

What none of them could really imagine when they first came together a decade ago was that the team they loved would one day be in our country and playing in front of them at a state-of-the-art stadium against the likes of Bayern Munich and Inter Milan.

It’s a dream come true for them to finally have the Blues hear and they will be there at the National Stadium this week to watch the champions and to savour the memories of the moment for a long time to come.

What I realised after meeting all of those familiar old faces at the supporters’ club gathering is that there’s not too much that we have in common with each other. In our multi-racial little island, we all come from different backgrounds, professions and schools, are of different ages and eras and began supporting Chelsea at different times and for different reasons.

What unites us is all is our passion for the club and our determination to keep the Blue flag flying high, 11,000 kilometres away from Stamford Bridge.