Could car parks be the answer in the short-term, and would you trade off Munich against Moscow. These are the conundrums facing Chelsea fan Giles Smith as he writes this week’s column…
Good news from Denmark, where top-flight football is scheduled to resume as soon as 17 May. Okay, it looks like it’s going to be behind closed doors – and football probably shouldn’t be behind closed doors any more than animals should be in cages.Even here, though, FC Midtjylland give us something to feel hopeful about by suggesting that fans might be able to use their cars to watch the game on a big screen attached to the outside of the stadium, like at an American drive-in movie theatre.Moreover - and here’s the nice touch - live footage of the cars in the car park will be beamed into the stadium to give the players a little taste of some atmosphere. (Never mind behind closed doors: I bet that’s something they wish they’d thought of at the Emirates ages ago.)Could we attempt to stage a similar experience here at the Bridge, in the event of a behind-closed-doors resumption? We’ve had cars inside the ground before now (at the Shed End, before the stadium was redeveloped) but that was something different.
In the Bridge’s present configuration, you would have to say there could be capacity problems, especially on the east side of the ground. You could redeploy the underground car park over there, but it wouldn’t quite be the same. The west side concourse is wider and more promising, but again, it’s not ideal. And the Fulham Road would likely be a bit sticky afterwards.Still, it’s something to think about. And Lord knows, we need things to think about right now. I’m getting desperate for them, actually - so desperate that I could feel there was nothing unusual or random at all about Talksport asking, via social media the other day, ‘what’s your favourite football?’In ordinary times you would assume there was a word missing from the end of that sentence (team? ground? song?). In lockdown conditions, you didn’t even pause to reflect: they wanted to know what your favourite football was. And then you even turned your mind to it.Respect, by the way, to the station’s two nominations for glory here: the adidas Azteca from the 1986 World Cup in Mexico and the Tango of Spain ‘82. Nice balls, both. But wrong. The correct answer is the adidas Champions League Munich Final 2012 matchball. Okay, it’s not the prettiest football the world has ever seen. But it’s what you do with it that counts.And on that topic, the Twitter feed of Chelsea in America, an affiliation of Chelsea supporters’ clubs, doing their bit to help the time pass, posed a knotty moral quandary for fans of our club this week: if the god of football descended from the clouds and offered to fix it so that John Terry scored his penalty to win the Champions League in Moscow, but only at the expense of Didier Drogba missing his penalty in Munich, would you take it?
Now, I’ve given this dilemma the extensive, in-depth consideration that it merits - and, perhaps more germanely, the extensive, in-depth consideration that a government-enforced lockdown during a global pandemic permits. And I think I’ve found the only possible answer.The only possible answer is no. With the best will in the world, John Terry’s Moscow miss cannot be exchanged for Didier Drogba’s Munich hit.I say this as someone who was there in Moscow in 2008 and who was rendered as miserable as he has ever been in a football stadium by the indescribably awful conclusion to that match.I say it as someone who has as much time for John Terry as he has for members of his own immediate family.I say it, moreover, as someone who still recalls, with a visceral sinking feeling in the stomach, how at that exact moment vast numbers of us at the opposite end of the ground, who had been standing for the whole of the second half, sat down in unison, as if the oxygen had been sucked out of our muscles by some kind of industrial machine.I say it, indeed, as someone who avoided seeing any film of the aforementioned traumatic incident for four whole years afterwards. Talk about self-isolating. Either by quickly leaving rooms, or by closing my eyes, jamming my fingers in my ears and going ‘la la la’ very loudly, I managed to avoid all contact with recordings of that penalty, until I eventually got accidentally exposed to it in (of course) the build-up to the Munich final, when it was literally unavoidable for many days in a row. (In case you’re wondering, it hadn’t got any easier to watch.)
But re-make history the tiny fraction necessary to bring Terry’s penalty in off the post – and thereby change the destination of the trophy in 2012? No. I’m sorry, but that simply wouldn’t be right.I was in Munich, too, and Munich wasn’t just a first Champions League trophy, it was also an exorcism – a laying to rest of 2008’s ghosts, which is partly why John Terry celebrated as happily as anybody else that night. Moscow necessarily lingered in the atmosphere, to the extent that, at the climax of the shoot-out, when Drogba started his walk from the centre circle, I turned around in my place – my in-the-ground version of hiding behind the sofa – because I felt like I needed to protect myself.‘We’ve been there before,’ I said to the person directly behind me.He replied, ‘I think you need to watch this.’I took his word for it. I turned back round. And he was right. I did need to watch it.Essentially, in the life of the fan, these things are a continuum. Experiences accumulate. One thing leads to another and it all adds up. John Terry, by missing, created the circumstances in which, four years later, Drogba could score and we could all go nuts. Or, at any rate, Drogba’s penalty in Munich felt so great BECAUSE John Terry missed in Moscow. You can’t have one without the other. And you certainly can’t have it the other way around.Also, let’s face it: beating Manchester United happens all the time. Beating Bayern Munich less so.And okay, you don’t want to be giving United more Champions League trophies than they really need to have. But, at the same time, had we lost in 2012 we’d have left Spurs in the Champions League places for the 2012/13 season. Let’s not forget that particular cherry on the Munich cake. You couldn’t write a story with as perfect an ending as that. So why would you even consider re-writing it?Dilemma solved, then. And with that weight off my locked-down mind, I’m going back to getting prepped for next week’s FA Cup final replay at Old Trafford – Wednesday night, as live, on the app. What a prospect. Long-awaited silverware within our grasp. I expect another tough and tight game, like at Wembley the other weekend. But I’ve got a good feeling about this one. A really good feeling.I’ll report back next week.