Our latest tour diary takes us onto matchday in Yokohama, with not one but two former Blues watching on...
Friday brought the first of two matchdays to this Japanese trip, and an extra buzz in the camp at the prospect of the evening’s game being played in front of a sell-out 70,000 crowd.
Yokohama’s International Stadium hosted the 2002 World Cup final, in which Ronaldo netted twice to help Brazil beat Germany and claim their fifth, and most recent, global crown. It was also the location for the 2012 Club World Cup, where we were beaten 1-0 by Corinthians in the final.
Much less was riding on this clash, but it was evident from the outset that Kawasaki, the Japanese champions were not here for a friendly. Their core supporters, the ‘Ultras’ behind the goal, were in fine voice from well before kick-off, many bouncing up and down while others waved Brazilian flags in honour of star striker Leandro Damiao, who would eventually head the only goal of the game five minutes from time.
The noise generated made for a lively atmosphere inside the sold-out stadium, which in turn gave things on the pitch just a little more edge than is usual for such a match. Lampard spoke afterwards of his satisfaction with the effort put in by his players, who were performing in hot and humid conditions.
The Blues had trained earlier on Friday, unusual for a matchday, but less so in pre-season. After the excitement of an open session on Thursday night, it was back behind closed doors, where during a light session for the players, Frank Lampard and his coaches worked on some defensive play before shooting practice.
One man continuing to enjoy the attention of fans was Ashley Cole, who was out surprising supporters at a meet and greet event with our partners Yokohama and the Europa League trophy.
At the stadium, a Chelsea fan zone provided another backdrop for supporters to come and show their love for our former left-back, who lifted every major club honour during his stay at Stamford Bridge. Thousands turned out to engage with the club, see Cole and the Europa League trophy, as well as pose for pictures with our mascots Stamford and Bridget.
Cole wasn’t the only ex-Chelsea player at the stadium. It was a great delight for some of the group to run into Deco, who served as a Blue between 2008 and 2010. The former Portuguese international is in Japan fulfilling media duties and had time for a quick hello with Lampard after the final whistle.
Despite defeat, the squad remained in good spirits after the game, and spent time walking around the pitch thanking the crowd for their attendance.
From there, it was time to say sayonara to Yokohama and move onto the next location in north-west Tokyo, not far from Saitama where we face Barcelona on Tuesday.
With such a solid rivalry between these clubs in recent years, everybody will be excited to come up against the Spanish champions, not least the new head coach.