This past Saturday was one of the most exciting and memorable days of my life. There are thousands of Chelsea fans around the world that can say that, but I feel it is my duty to fully inform you of my experiences on the day my cherished club lifted their first UEFA Champions League trophy.
Anthony and Erin are two of my best friends in the world; I’ve known Anthony since we were children playing football together and Erin since the earliest stages of their relationship in the Delaware Valley cafeteria. Anthony is a colossal Spurs fan (I don’t hold it against him) and last year after nine years of dating, he proposed to Erin. Their wedding was a model of perfection, taking place on a lovely Saturday afternoon in May, directly conflicting with the Champions League final. When Chelsea defeated Barcelona at the Camp Nou a few weeks ago, the first thing Anthony said to me was “We’ll find a way for you to watch the match.”
Sure enough when Saturday came around, Anthony kept his word. This is not only a testament to how much we love our respective clubs, but to our friendship as a whole. As the time grew closer to kickoff and the marriage ceremony, Anthony and I grew nervous together, but for vastly different reasons. Twitter had revealed that Chelsea would be beginning the game with 5 defenders on the pitch; Di Matteo was locking into the siege mentality meaning it was going to be a nervous day for Chelsea supporters around the world.
As the ceremony began, the match kicked off, Erin made her way down the aisle, while half a world away Chelsea absorbed the beginning of a German onslaught that would continue through the evening. Anthony and Erin exchanged their beautiful handwritten vows in front of the Justice of the Peace and shared a passionate kiss amid the cheers of those assembled. They made their retreat down the aisle and the celebration was underway. My celebration would have to wait longer.
While the wedding guests greeted each other and congratulated the bride and groom, I retreated to the house that contained the facility’s lone television. I arrived just as the second half began and settled in for what I knew would be an intense half of football. Repeatedly I watched the waves of attacking Bayern players have their efforts blocked, parried, punched, and deflected away by the brave Chelsea defense and Peter Cech.
The bride and groom briefly joined me to escape the heat and the crowd gathered to enjoy a semi-private moment amongst themselves. They soon returned to their guests, while I returned my attention to the television where yet another corner was conceded and cleared by Chelsea, but as the minutes drew closer to 90 I knew something had to give.
Surely enough, Thomas Muller was able to find the goal off a header that bounced off the ground and over the head and hands of Petr Cech. I was devastated; all the excitement I had felt immediately vanished, replaced by bitterness and defeat. Chelsea hadn’t showed much promise on the attacking end and it looked like Bayern would triumph in their home stadium.
Didier Drogba restored my faith just a few short minutes later, by sending Juan Mata’s corner kick into the goal off the hands of Manuel Neuer. It was an incredible moment, a cathartic excitement over came me and I screamed. Drogba had redeemed himself from the shame of the 2008 Final in the best way possible, giving Chelsea a glimmer of hope off of their only corner kick of the match. Fernando Torres’ introduction had changed the game in Chelsea’s favor and I believed they had the upper hand when the end of the second half was signaled.
Just a few minutes later, my world was turned on its head again, as Didier Drogba conceded a penalty by clipping the heels of Franck Ribery. While Arjen Robben strode forward to take the crucial penalty, I prayed that Peter Cech would be able to redeem Chelsea for that mistake. He did. Robben scuffed the penalty, and Cech made the save, giving Chelsea another chance.
While my hysteria reached a fever pitch, various friends and family members became aware of my absence as dinner was beginning shortly. I didn’t care, my friends would understand, this would all be worth it. Time slipped away as Bayern squandered chance after chance. Ashley Cole, David Luiz, and Gary Cahill all gave incredible performances to ensure the Chelsea back line held strong. When the full time whistle blew, I felt no relief at the prospect of penalties.
Juan Mata’s first penalty was stopped by Manuel Neuer, putting Chelsea’s backs against the precipice of defeat yet another time. Only this time there was hope that was replacing despair. That didn’t waiver when Neuer sunk his penalty and Luiz responded by thumping his own. When Olic and Robben strode to the penalty spot, I knew that Cech had the upper hand and the massive keeper responded appropriately by stopping both. As Drogba took the long walk to the penalty spot it felt like destiny. As he rolled the ball past Neuer, it became destiny.
While Drogba celebrated with his teammates, I screamed with joy. I was alone in my happiness, but united with thousands of Chelsea fans around the world. As I returned to the celebration with my friends I was greeted with scowls and stares from people wondering how I could be so selfish. They wouldn’t understand, but I wouldn’t want them to. Later, Anthony shook my hand and congratulated me and the celebration continued long into the night.