A NEW EXPERIENCE

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Chelsea taking on a side from Mexico for the right to play a Brazilian team in the final of the Club World Cup. In Japan. Wow.

 Scarborough putting us out of the League Cup in 1989 seems a lot way away, right?

 I admit it, I’m excited about the competition. Now if it was any other English outfit – hell, any other team period – I couldn’t care less. Really now, with the cut and thrust of the Premier League, the weekly battles against your local rivals for national supremacy, who could possible be bothered about a wee mid-season jaunt to the other side of the planet to take part in a crackpot cup with a bunch of teams no-one has ever heard of? Nobody, right? Well, unless of course it’s your club. Then you are just three hours away from being crowned the official Champions of the World. By FIFA no less, and everyone knows they never get anything wrong.

I would love to be there right now. Is Japan cold this time of year? I don’t care, and even though as I write here in Southern Louisiana the sun is shinning, the sky is blue, and the temperature may get into the seventies, I’d still rather be huddling against the rain / wind / snow / bright sunshine, or whatever it is that the Blues fans are experiencing in the Land of the Rising Sun. Like many longtime (and often long-suffering) Chelsea supporters, I jump at the chance to hit a different destination.

Fans love it when a new club gets promoted as it brings the promise of an inaugural away trip to somewhere like Swansea or Brighton. Similarly it’s great when we draw a lower league or even non-league team away in a cup competition and experience a new ground – and maybe a few new pubs as well. And for flip’s sake don’t get me wrong – I’m devastated that we are out of the Champions League – but if there is one faint, microscopic, sliver of silver lining, it is that we get to enter a new competition, play on a Thursday for a change, “enjoy” a new experience, and possibly meet a few new opponents. I know, I know, we would still rather be battling against Real Madrid in the Bernabeu. But glass half-full and all that, eh?

I had hoped to be in Tokyo this week, and a trip to Asia for this tournament was going to be my consolation prize after missing out on Munich. I should have been writing this blog between eating sushi, trying on a kimono and buying a windup Godzilla that shoots sparks from his mouth. You may laugh, but I did actually buy one of these the last time I was in Japan. No idea what happened to it. You would think I would have taken more care of such a prized Japanese artifact actually.

But a combination of things too depressing to list has meant I will be following the action from the comfort of my wooden Creole cottage in New Orleans, at the Gawd-awful hour of 430am. Now I know what if feels like to be a Chelsea fan on the West Coast, and I’m sure the rest of us supporters Stateside will have a better appreciation of the dedication and loyalty of those in California who drive AN HOUR to the pub to watch matches which kick-off at 1230pm in the UK. At least I only have to fall downstairs to my sofa.

So label it however you like, and I’m sure there are plenty of pundits who will refer to the Club World Cup with words like “distraction”, “unnecessary”, and, “waste of time.” But right now I’m like a kid on Christmas Eve. And winning the title of Best Club Team on Earth would be a perfect Yuletide gift.

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

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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

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