In his latest blog for the official Chelsea website, Stephen Rea - our Stateside writer - explains why he was in New York to watch our Champions League win over Lille. I’ve seen Chelsea live a bunch of times in New York. This week was the first time I’ve watched them on TV while I’ve been there.
America’s biggest city has been a frequent destination for the Blues in recent years. They have appeared at the homes of three local teams from three different sports, which I have to think is a first. The Londoners have played at a dedicated football ground, the Red Bull Arena, at an American football venue, Giants (now MetLife) Stadium, and even on a baseball diamond, Yankee Stadium.
In the nineties I spent a lot of time in the City That Never Sleeps, but since emigrating to the States 15 years ago, I’ve only visited to watch Chelsea (aside from once in 2006 when Northern Ireland took on Uruguay in a friendly).
As you would expect in a place with more than eight million inhabitants, the New York Blues are one of the largest and most active supporters’ groups in the USA. For years they have met at a bar called Football Factory at Legends, within spitting distance of the Empire State Building in bustling, frantic Midtown Manhattan.
Here’s what I find unusual about the New York Blues. They do not have an exclusive dedicated pub, but are happy to 'share' their headquarters. Even clubs with a small following in the States, have a unique New York bar to call home. Legends is ground zero for many outfits: other Premier League rivals of course, but also for those from all over Europe and South America, as well as international sides.
I watched the Blues take on Lille there on Wednesday afternoon. The NYB had draped a huge flag from the ceiling down the middle of the room, separating those following the match from the customers focused on the other simultaneous Champions’ League ties. A group of Lyon fans had done the same thing to enclose a corner, and groans or cheers filtered through from their section.
I like the idea of sharing a space. It’s common among supporters of different teams in smaller cities across America, and it’s also what we do here in New Orleans.
From the Big Easy to the Big Apple, we keep the Blue Flag flying high.