Champions of Europe. After last season’s storybook run, capped off in storybook fashion by none other than our stalwart storybook hero, that’s how Chelsea and its fans all too gleefully refer to themselves. As Champions of Europe! They – we, one may so boldly say – are forever 2011/12’s Champions of Europe.
What happens next, though? Each of us can answer that question in its more literal context, certainly, because we’ve experienced the most immediate portions of ‘next’. There was jubilant celebration, not the least of which involved lots of victory dances on Allianz Arena’s pitch (some meticulously choreographed by one dearly departed Jose Bosingwa); a lot of Bayern Munchen sitting nearby with pale faces and broken hearts; a parade fit for Champions where David Luiz added his highly anticipated words of wisdom (‘BLUE IS DE COLOR’, indeed); and the long, tearful goodbye to one true Chelsea legend. And, more recently, a number of preseason fixtures that, depending on your perspective, were labeled anywhere between ‘highly comical’ to ‘gut-wrenching omens’.
The question, however, goes well beyond the middle of the summer transfer window, and the end of 2012/13’s preseason. It looks to the season, and more broadly, the future in general. Chelsea have won that elusive European Cup. Now what?
Surely, most pundits will rate Chelsea’s summer as an outstanding transfer window for the club – but then, the ball is kicked around once again. Sweat and tears will be shed; teeth will gnash, bones will gnaw, Mata will perform a touch of magic with those lovely little feet of his, and we will cheer. How much, and how passionately, we cheer depends on how much we’ve actually learned from the previous season, the season in which Chelsea were crowned Champions of Europe. Did we learn to never give up on our team, even if their struggles appear impossible to overcome? Did we learn to take nothing for granted, to assume nothing, to simply enjoy the journey Chelsea takes us on from August until May? Or did we learn nothing – will we still complain about occurrences in small sample sizes? Will we still whine about a missed substitution here and there? Will we draw blanket conclusions based on personal opinions that, frankly, have no bearing on reality itself? It’s up to all of us, as fans both collectively and individual, to take something from the experience Chelsea Football Club gave us last season.
Perhaps the simplest lesson we can collectively hope to grasp is one of modesty. For months, it seemed as though Chelsea’s 2011/12 campaign would be an entirely hopeless one. Almost everyone threw in the proverbial towel in one form or another after the 3-1 dismantling at the San Paolo – and if that performance wasn’t a humbling experience for Chelsea and its fans, nothing was. Many were quick to proclaim why the season had been such a tragedy – pundits, fans, gleeful rivals* all – and most of said proclamations included little more than uneducated opinions and subjective analysis. Passion in itself is not a bad trait; when harnessed properly, it’s an incredible asset. It’s important to note, though, how foolish one looks when their passion takes control of their thoughts, their views, their contribution. Moving forward, one can hope that we as individuals don’t assume that all the answers are laid at our feet, and that we as a fanbase recognize and acknowledge that every team has its struggles, even our own Chelsea Football Club; it’s just a matter of giving them time to battle through and overcome them, and perhaps more importantly, the faith that they will, as they always seem to, find their way in the end.
In their triumph, Chelsea also put on display what it means to work as a unit. For the entire stretch, it was not about eleven individuals taking the pitch; the whole was truly greater than the sum of its parts. As we are all [most?] true blue through and through, perhaps we can all take notes from the example set forth by our footballing comrades and respect one another for the Chelsea fanatics that each and every one [most?] of us are. Disagreements are not only allowed but encouraged, but that doesn’t mean we need to denigrate one another in the process (that being said, don’t say something contrarian and expect to not get lambasted if you don’t back up your reasoning with tangible arguments). We all want the same thing – victory for Chelsea. Let’s learn from our Champions by heeding the precedent they set.
However, truly the greatest lesson we could take from Chelsea’s win, from the manner in which Chelsea somehow managed to win, it’s that sports – and, in fact, life – sometimes takes us on wild, unpredictable rides, the likes of which seem well outside the fickle boundaries of reality before, during, and even in the still-felt aftermath. We can learn to never cede our belief in Chelsea – on our friends, our family and, indeed, ourselves – until the bloody, bitter end. And even then, Torres might win a corner (I feel obligated to mention this, because otherwise I’m sure I’d be reminded about 37 separate times that Torres did, in fact, win the greatest corner of all time), and Drogba might come out of nowhere to slot in a miracle 88th minute equalizer. This is all to say: never surrender. Never, ever, ever give up. Didier Drogba wouldn’t, and neither should you.
Let’s not allow last year’s incredible journey to simply fade into oblivion. Let’s remind ourselves that, not matter the odds, anything truly is possible. Let’s try to go into each and every match day, and perhaps each and every day individually, with that mentality to pay homage to Chelsea’s surreal achievements in 2011/12. And, best yet, let’s do it to remind those once-gleeful rivals* what transpired on Europe’s grandest stage from March to May.
Keep the blue flag flying high – wherever you may be.
*WE’RE CHAMPIONS OF EUROPE BITCHES