The Complimentary Spouse and I trekked to Orlando last weekend to see Chelsea take on Arsenal in the Florida Cup.
Let’s get the bad news out of the way first: Chelsea sucked. Bad. I think they were experimenting with some new formations, but they clearly didn’t work. About halfway through the match, Britt turned to me and said, “They know they have to kick the ball to the other person, right? Not just to the general area the other person is in?”
Chelsea should have won the game handily. Instead, they lost 4-0. It was embarrassing.
OK, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk about how awesome it was to see the Blues play. We didn’t go to any football matches when I was a kid in London because they weren’t safe. Check out the Wikipedia article about Football Hooliganism in the United Kingdom and you’ll see why my dad never took me to Stamford Bridge, or any other football stadium for that matter.
Britt and I have toured Stamford Bridge, but have never seen Chelsea play live. We bought tickets for the match at Camping World Stadium in Orlando as soon as they went on sale.
We arrived to find the stadium (which no one would describe as a world-class sports facility) decked out for the game, with large banners for both teams:
In front of the stadium, there were separate areas for Chelsea and Arsenal fans. Chelsea had a large stage, great music, and some of the silverware1 on display:
Here’s Britt and me hanging out with the Premier League cup:
Of course, they were selling T-shirts, kit, and plenty of other souvenirs. As you can see, the Chelsea stuff was on the right. I turned to Britt and very loudly said, “If you even think about buying anything on the left, I’ll divorce you.”
Stamford the Lion walked past us as we entered the stadium:
He was followed by Bridget the Lioness:
Considering that Chelsea play at Stamford Bridge, I think Stamford and Bridget are pretty clever names for the mascots.
I believe there is a law now that requires “Sweet Caroline” to be played at all sporting events in the United States. We dutifully sang along. About halfway through the video below, you’ll see Britt and me doing our part to keep the blue flag flying high:
Since it was a night game, the weather wasn’t as bad as you’d imagine — in the mid-80s with tolerable humidity.
If you’ve never been to a football game, you’re missing out. Games can be a bit monotonous on teevee, which, I suspect, is why many Americans consider the sport to be boring. But when you’ve experienced football live, you see things from a completely different perspective and gain a new appreciation. You’re transfixed because the ball is constantly in motion and the game doesn’t stop. (A sport without commercial breaks? Yes, it exists!) You’re transfixed on the action.
In our section — which was packed with Chelsea fans — no one sat down for all 90 minutes of play. No one looked at their phones. We were just hundreds of people, connected by a shared experience. It’s kind of transcendental if you think about it.2
So, despite the humiliating loss, Britt and I had an incredible time. I hope our next Chelsea match will be at Stamford Bridge, but the Blues are welcome back in America anytime.
1 Needless to say, the silverware display at Stamford Bridge is much more impressive. Here’s just one photo from a room packed with display cases:
2 Name any other transcendental experience that involves nachos and beer. I’ll wait.