The 2009 FA Cup final at the new Wembley Stadium, Chelsea v Everton; witness the scene.
Twenty-six seconds in, Louis Saha swivels on the edge of the area, strikes the ball. He beats Petr Cech on the near post and GOAL...the hordes of celebrating Evertonians, in one half of the stadium, go wild.
In the end holding the Chelsea fans there is a different emotion; shock, a stunned silence. This isn’t meant to be happening, this isn’t the script.
This is the mighty Chelsea, strong in midfield, physically strong; Packed with talent, with world-class players; playing against honest, workmanlike, Everton. This should not be happening.
It’s worse than that for the Chelsea fan. The assembled superstars of the Russian oligarch’s millions are returning to the field after the travesty of the Barcelona Champions League semi-final; a game that hinged on the decisions of a woefully over-matched Norwegian referee; a game they should have won.
And they’ve just seen that same Barcelona side go on to dismantle Manchester United in the final, playing a style of football that has been lauded throughout the world. It could have been Chelsea, it could have been them; it should have been them.
There is a stunned silence in the Chelsea end, not quite. There are small pockets of supporters, shaking each others hands, hugging each other. In the relative silence you can hear the distinctive accents, the most recognizable accents in the country. There are Scousers in the Chelsea end; Everton fans.
There is no longer a silence in the Chelsea end; there are murmurings, people looking around. They notice now, the same true-blue shirts, the ones with a different logo on the front, the club colours; Everton.
People are standing up; there’s shouting, anger. You hear the comments, a different accent now; London accents. “What are they doing in here?” “This is a fucking liberty.”
The Everton players are still celebrating as the procession starts; the Everton fans in the Chelsea end walking quickly down the aisles, 30 or 40, looking about nervously; some holding the arms of friends, helping them, bloodied friends.
One, two, three, four, bleeding. One with blood streaming from an ear, another with a white handkerchief clutched to his face, blood spurting from an obviously broken nose. They make their way to an exit point, and safety?
Wembley Stadium 2009, on the forecourt, by the turnstiles at entrance P, at the Chelsea end. It’s 20 minutes before kick-off; witness the scene.
A Chelsea fan waits, looking at his watch. He’s waiting for his son, his son is late, he’s always late. He shakes his head and looks at his watch again, thinks to himself “Wasn’t it hard enough getting him the ticket and he can’t even be on time?”
The Chelsea fan is a season ticket-holder; he’s a life-long Chelsea supporter. Partisan when it comes to football, but in essence a humane man. He’s only got this spare ticket for his son at the last moment when someone dropped out and he doesn’t want to miss the game.
He looks along the forecourt, looking for his son and see’s a group of supporters coming towards him. They’re all in blue shirts, it’s only when they get up close and he hears them speak that he realises that these are not Chelsea fans, they’re Everton in the same blue.
One of them approaches him, a ticket in his hand and says, in the distinctive accent.
“Excuse me mate, we’re looking for Entrance P, we’ve been all over the place.”
The Chelsea fan looks them up and down, looks at the Everton football shirts, looks at the ticket in the man’s hand. He shakes his head and sighs, says.
“This is entrance P mate, but this is the Chelsea end,” he asks “Where did you get your tickets from?”
The Everton fan, understanding the nuance of the question immediately, replies.
“We didn’t get them off a tout mate, we got these off the FA. I’m a referee, we’ve all got FA tickets.” He points to his friends. “They’re referees, he runs a Sunday league club, he’s on the board of a semi-pro team, all of us are connected.”
The Chelsea fan sighs, he looks down the forecourt and sees more Everton fans in their shirts coming towards the turnstile. As they gather he says.
“Gents, a word to the wise. You cannot go in there like that, look at you; you’re all in your colours. It’s not safe.”
Another of the Everton fans answers. “What can we do mate, we’re not hooligans, we’ve just come to see the game. We’ve been waiting 20 years for this.” He points to one of his friends. “He’s come all the way from Orlando for this match.”
The Chelsea fan looks at his watch. “Let’s have a word with one of the stewards, see if they can get you into the other end, maybe you can swap with someone, There must be Chelsea fans in the same situation.”
They follow him to the entrance. The conversation is swift, the reply from the young stewards negative. They can’t do anything.
The eager Everton fans begin to stream in, the game is soon starting. It’s the Chelsea fan who is most vociferous; he understands elements of his own support. “There must be something you can do, look at them, they’re wearing their own colours,” he says.
“All we can suggest is they turn their shirts inside out, and that they go in there at their own risk,” says the steward.
“And that’s it?”
“Yeah, it’s kicking off in there already but that’s all we can do.”
One of the last Everton fans going in hears this, turns his shirt out and thanks the Chelsea fan for his trouble.
“Good luck,” says the Chelsea fan, and goes back to wait for his son.
Chelsea are just preparing to re-start the game after Everton’s opening goal.
In the Chelsea end the Chelsea fan’s son turns to him and says.
“Jesus dad, did you see the blood coming out of that Everton fan’s nose. What were they thinking of coming in our end?”
In reply the Chelsea fan says.
“It wasn’t their fault son, you can blame the FA for that one. They’ve obviously forgotten why we have segregation in the first place. Maybe all this talk about the new football supporter has made them forget about the old ones. They should be ashamed.”
“What do you mean dad?” asks the son.
His dad gives him a playful clip around the ear.
“If you ever turned up on time you’d know what I was talking about. Now let’s watch the game. C’mon CHELSEA.”
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