In his latest blog for the official Chelsea website, Stephen Rea, our Stateside blogger, casts his eye over the Women's World Cup in France... I have yet to see Chelsea Women play, and indeed, up until last week I had only ever seen one professional female game.
In December 2015, I went to the Superdome in New Orleans to watch the USA against China. The Americans had won the World Cup that summer and the friendly was a rematch of the quarter-final.
That night the States lost 1-0 in front of 33,000 spectators, which I think is the second-highest crowd ever for a football match in the Big Easy. It ended an incredible run of 104 contests undefeated at home for the U.S., a ridiculous sequence stretching back to a loss to Denmark in November 2004. Not many teams go unbeaten at home for more than 11 years.
I’ve just returned from the Women’s World Cup in France, three years after I was there to see Northern Ireland at the 2016 European Championships. I’ve also watched the Blues all over Europe, and away from the pitch, there are major differences between the matchday experience in the male and female versions of the sport.
When Chelsea play on the continent, our fans tend to congregate in an area of the host city, maybe at a main thoroughfare or an iconic landmark. The supporters will set up camp in nearby bars, hang flags, and sing and chant hours before the kick-off.
The USA v Thailand fixture was close to a sell-out. Yet when the Americans held a pre-game party organised by the official fan club in the main square, only a few dozen attended. I watched an ESPN TV reporter record a segment among them, and the cameraman had to zoom in and crop the picture to make it seem like she was surrounded.
The other huge difference was the makeup of the spectators and I was pleasantly surprised with how many females were in the stands. What do you think is the typical split between the sexes at a game at Stamford Bridge? Do men outnumber women 10 to one maybe? In France I would guess it was a 50/50 divide, and with ticket prices starting at nine Euros, there were a lot more children at the matches as well.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get to catch any Chelsea players in the flesh. The Londoners are well represented at the competition, and I wish our remaining players all the best as they enter the knockout rounds.