Deja vu. I’m feeling it all over again, as a comedian once said.
I remember the last time we played in the European Super Cup. I was so excited to get a chance to go to Monaco and used the game as an excuse to travel to Cannes, Nice and other parts of the French Riviera, rounding off the trip by bumping into the U2 guitarist The Edge at the airport on the way home.
Back then it was still a novelty for Chelsea to be playing in Europe and it was great when we drew a team from a country I had never visited. I was on a mission to make it to every nation, principality, territory, whatever, in Europe (and UEFA), and I fell just short of it before we emigrated to the States. I saw more than 50 but missed out on one (Moldova, if you are interested, though now you can add Montenegro and Kazakhstan as since then they have become member countries of the European governing body).
That final was 14 years ago to this very day – I’m looking at my match ticket right now, framed above my desk along with three other winning final tickets from that era – and despite my rapidly advancing old age, two things stick out in my mind: The first is the Stade Louis II stadium which was so unlike any other football ground I’d ever been in. There were even escalators in it, and it was so modern and high-tech and just so, well, strange. I know it holds close to 19,000 spectators, but back then it felt like it could only accommodate about a quarter of that. It was like a non-league stadium from the future.
My other memory is Brian Laudrup coming on as a substitute for his debut, and him receiving a standing ovation from the Chelsea fans. I was convinced he was going to be a superstar for us – and of course he ended up starting just five league games before his departure. But that was in the future, and that night at least he was part of a side who, for the second time in a European final, defeated Real Madrid. Not too shabby.
When I watch Friday’s match which is being broadcast live here in the States, hoping that Chelsea can grab their second European trophy in three months, my thoughts will drift back to a long weekend I spent on one of the glitziest spots on the Mediterranean coastline. I’ll have my fingers crossed that this game will be as successful for the Blues as our other finals against Real’s city rivals.
Writing about crossed fingers and anniversaries brings me back to the present. Tomorrow, August 29, is seven years to the day that Hurricane Katrina screamed into the Gulf Coast, and once again, the day before a major storm is barreling towards Southern Louisiana, I am in my home in New Orleans. But this time we hope there is no need for a scrambled last-minute evacuation and we plan to ride out this hurricane here in the Big Easy. You prepare as best you can, make your home as secure as possible, and trust that everything will turn out okay.
Hopefully Isaac will spare us the catastrophic devastation, destruction and death that Katrina caused across the region (You know you’ve been living in New Orleans a while when your wife says we don’t need to evacuate because it’s only, “a small hurricane”), and when we wake up tomorrow there will be little or no damage.
So two anniversaries are in my thoughts this week that yield very different emotions and memories. Happy days spent in the sun culminating with Chelsea lifting a European trophy, while the other reminds me of the merciless and breath-taking power of Mother Nature. No prizes for guessing which event I hope to see repeated. Whatever anniversary you are focusing on this week, just remember to keep your fingers crossed.
Stephen Rea is the author of the book Finn McCool’s Football Club, a tale of supporting Chelsea from the United States, the formation of a pub football team in New Orleans and the devastating effect of Hurricane Katrina on that city. Visit his site here: www.stephen-rea.com or friend him at www.facebook.com/stevorea
Please note : the views in many of our blogs are written by fans of Chelsea FC and are not necessarily the views of the club