I was pretty amused by a comment from one of my Facebook friends on Monday…
“Saw a record 12 people in City jerseys, not a single United kit out today.”
No prizes for guessing the reason for that overwhelming display of club loyalty, coming as it did the day after a very one-sided Manchester derby.
But the question that sprang immediately to my mind after reading that was just how many of those wearing Manchester City shirts on the streets of Singapore were genuine City supporters and how many were fans of other clubs keen to rub more salt into the wounds of United fans after their embarrassing 4-1 loss at Eastlands.
Given how football loyalties tend to run out here in South-East Asia, I wouldn’t doubt that many of them would be of the latter persuasion.
Indeed based on the Facebook comments that I saw from local Chelsea fans on Monday (eg Man Utd fan, can you be quiet 4 1 minute?), the result of the Manchester derby elicited as much delight from Blues supporters over here as the stunning sight of John Mikel Obi scoring a goal in the 2-0 win over our own neighbours Fulham the day before.
Chelsea may now boast one of the biggest supporter bases in the world, particularly out here in Asia, but old habits die hard it seems and many of us still take as much delight in the failings of our rivals as we would in our own successes.
Delighting in Manchester United’s woes is completely understandable if you were a Chelsea fan in Asia 20 years ago. With silverware a bit of a distant dream for us back then, we shared a great solidarity in those times with other members of the Anyone But Manchester United (ABMU) fan club.
So the capitulation of the Red Devils to Leeds in the 1992 title race, their 1-0 loss to Everton in the 1995 FA Cup final and their 5-0 defeat at Newcastle a year later gave us some crumbs of comfort as we waited forlornly for a change in the fortunes of our own team.
Well, times have changed and given the success that Chelsea have enjoyed in recent years, it is not uncommon to see rival fans nowadays taking as much delight in an embarrassing defeat for the Blues as they would in a United loss.
Such was the case after the home loss to Basel in our Champions League opener last week which produced a predictably animated and scornful response from rival fans.
Now one of the dullest but most often-used insults levelled by them against us is that we are all a bunch of ‘plastic’ fans or soft-core supporters who have only followed the club since the arrival of Roman Abramovich.
I don’t take too kindly to a suggestion like that, particularly if it was to be levelled at me by anyone under the age of 30 (since I’ve been a Chelsea fan for longer than that person has been alive).
But for the younger generation of Chelsea supporters who may not have an appreciation for the struggles of our club during the 1970s and 1980s, it is an insult that could just hit home through no real fault of their own.
Many of them became Blues fans because they liked something that they saw in the team that has enjoyed so much success in the past decade, but is it really wrong to like a team that is successful? Not at all, but the true test of fan loyalty comes not in times of success but in times of adversity.
So rather than being like one of those Man U fans who would eagerly flaunt their team’s wares after winning a trophy but were too embarrassed on Monday to show their colours after a heavy loss, I hope that newer Chelsea fans in this region do not waver in their support of the Blues and will continue don their kit even in the wake of a disappointing defeat.
I know that I will, but I probably don’t have much of a choice since most of wardrobe is already filled with Chelsea shirts.
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