In our first part of the On Exchange series, journalism student Natasha Gan writes about her soccer dreams coming true on her exchange in England. Are you a Ryerson student on exchange with a story you’d like to contribute? Feel free to email us at ryersonfolio @gmail.com.
I stood on the tube (the London subway) platform, wearing my Chelsea Football Club jersey, waiting for my train to Fulham Broadway. I was still unable to fully appreciate the fact that I was going to watch my favorite football club play at home at Stamford Bridge.
To a football fan who, since high school, has been accustomed to waking up at 3 a.m. on a school night to watch a game through a TV screen, even the idea of potentially watching at the stadium is unreal. But there I was in London, UK, on my way to the stadium one — rare — sunny day. I was nervous that when people on the subway see what I was wearing, they might think I’m not a real fan but I just bought the jersey anyway, that women don’t know anything about football, that I should just be watching the game on TV. I imagined the away team’s fans appearing and cursing at me for being a fan of Chelsea. I hid my jersey under my pea coat and scarf.
About halfway to destination, more people in blue (Chelsea’s colour) started coming in, then more women wearing Chelsea scarves started filling in the train. Before I knew it I was shoulder to shoulder in a train jammed with Chelsea fans in cobalt blue. I was confident enough to open the buttons of my coat and let my blue jersey visible. If only the train wasn’t so packed, I could take off my coat and let my jersey show.
I got to the stadium and it was popping. I sat in my seat, right between the away fans and the home fans, facing thousands of other people chanting their hearts out. The kind Chelsea supporters with whom I exchanged smiles and a few words were the same people cursing and screaming at the top of their lungs at the away fans two seats away from me.
At the 90th minute, I was agitated and expecting the imminent disappointment of the match ending with 0-0. This can’t be, I told myself. Lampard, I’ve been watching you since before I knew what alcohol was; Terry, I cried when you slipped during that penalty kick at the UEFA Champions League final a few years ago. I’ve come all the way here so please don’t disappoint me, and score. Four minutes later, one minute before the final whistle, Captain John Terry scored with an assist from Frank Lampard. It was a 1-0 win for Chelsea! I jumped and roared with the stadium and awkwardly high fived the security guard beside me.
I left the Bridge ecstatic, still in awe, speechless. On my way home, I wish it were warm enough to take off my coat so I could proudly sport my Lampard jersey. Here I am home at 10 p.m., writing this article, still wearing my jersey. Oh London, you are superb.