What’s the identity of Chelsea?
It’s a simple question without an easy answer, not least because the West London club has meant different things to different people over the decades, and until the 2000s the Blues never won much of anything.
And so we visited London for a few days to learn more about what makes Chelsea special. We sat down for interviews with José Mourinho, arguably the world’s best coach in any sport, and Didier Drogba, who has become synonymous with the Blues.
We got access inside Stamford Bridge and at the team’s Cobham training ground. We spoke to Neil Barnett, Chelsea’s pregame ringmaster, about the club’s history. And we enjoyed the full game-day experience with David Johnstone, a lifelong Chelsea fan who attends every competitive match home and away.
Our visit to Chelsea happened to come before last week’s horrible incident in Paris, in which a group of Chelsea fans was caught on a phone video issuing racist chants on the Métro and physically preventing a black man from getting onboard. Johnstone described feeling shame when he saw the video.
“A handful of guys have brought shame upon Chelsea and tarnished everybody else’s reputation,” Johnstone said when I called him on Monday. “Those guys involved in that incident in Paris are not representative of the overwhelming majority of Chelsea supporters. They’re going to have their day in court, and if they’re found guilty let’s hope they feel the full weight of the law.”
Over the past week, the club issued a formal apology and promised life bans from Stamford Bridge for the fans who were involved in the Paris incident. And on Saturday a homemade sign went up in the stands before Chelsea’s game against Burnley: BLACK OR WHITE, WE’RE ALL BLUE.
Under the Crest: Chelsea is our way of seeking what it means to be a Blue.