India

Memories Of The Bridge: Maneesh Sistla

A visit to Stamford Bridge is a dream for every Chelsea FC fan. For Maneesh Sistla from Hyderabad, that dream came true in 2018!

Currently pursuing his undergraduate degree in Hyderabad, Maneesh Sistla has been a Chelsea FC fan since 2008.

“Basically, I started following the club because of my father, who has been a massive Chelsea FC fan since the Jose Mourinho days,” Maneesh said.

“My family knows that I have not missed a single game since 2008-09. Once a game starts, the TV is mine at home. Currently, I am staying in my college hostel, but that rarely deters me from following games regularly.”

Shifting attention to his Stamford Bridge visit, Maneesh talks to us about the impromptu plans which led to the moment he had been waiting for his whole life.

“In 2018, me and my family travelled to the UK on an impromptu vacation to visit our relatives and then travel through London,” he recalls. “I didn’t pin too much hope on all the formalities happening smoothly, but when they did, I immediately decided that the first stop for our visit would be Stamford Bridge.”

“After reaching Stamford Bridge, I spotted Peter Osgood's famous statue at the West Stand, behind which there were two big banners sandwiching a list of our trophies - Ron Harris lifting the first FA Cup we won (in 1970), and Gary Cahill lifting the most recent one (in 2018). While reading the detailed plaques of our legends placed near the entrance to the stadium, I started pinching myself because I'd dreamt about this moment many times before!”

During the stadium tour of Stamford Bridge, Maneesh experienced a moment which he would never forget - sitting in the spot of his favorite player, Eden Hazard.

“The one feeling I can distinctly remember is the feeling of awe in its purest form,” Manish reflects. “It wasn’t sinking in that I was in there, sitting where Eden Hazard sat before he mesmerized Stamford Bridge countless times. I tried imagining the players all around me and it just felt amazing.”

When the tour guide led him and the group into the Shed End Upper and the pitch, with the "Carefree" chant playing on speakers, Maneesh was overwhelmed by the beauty of it all. “This was one of the highlights of the tour,” he said. “From here it was possible to spot a lot of banners of our legends around the stadium, and the Chelsea India banner.”

“Just as we were walking out the tunnel, there’s a board which says ‘Home of the Champions’ and players usually touch it while coming out. That’s what I did. I came out to the Liquidator song playing, smelt the grass and took it all in. As soon as my dad walked out, he started waving to the stands! We were just lost in the magic of the song and our surroundings. I could just spend hours over there, soaking in everything and revelling in all the Chelsea memories there.”

Summarizing his experience at Stamford Bridge, Maneesh had nothing but positive words to say. “I was slightly unfortunate in that I could not visit the stadium during the season due to college obligations,” he said. “However, to go from watching football matches on our college hostel TVs and 13 inch laptop screens, to physically visiting Stamford Bridge, was an amazing journey.”

Speaking about his goals in life, Maneesh said, “My ultimate goal is to self-fund a trip to Stamford Bridge to watch a game, just because of the massive part Chelsea has played in my life specifically. I am entering my fourth year now in college, and it’s only Chelsea which helps me get through the week by making me look forward to watching matches over the weekend. It’s the only thing on my mind when I think about going abroad for higher education or taking up a job abroad, in order to settle near Stamford Bridge and ultimately be a season ticket holder there. That’s something I desperately want to achieve.”