First and foremost question for me- where would I park?
After all the final would kick off at 0415 hrs on a cold Sunday morning in May. I had to travel to the City pub where Adelaide Chelsea would gather at a time when public transport wasn’t available and a taxi would cost 5 pints of beer- each way.
My plan was to drive to within walking distance of the pub, park in a safe, well lit location so my car would still have all four wheels intact on my return – which could be very early Sunday morning or a time unknown if dreams came true.
So I identified a landmark spot, Colonel Light’s lookout, the designer of Adelaide’s City Plan with a magnificent vista of Adelaide Oval. Not much more than a mile walk to the pub, well lit and not too far to go to retrieve the car sometime on Sunday be it early or late.
The evening of the game, I went to bed.
Unlike others I simply would not last, remember or survive an all nighter with the match kicking off at 0415 Sunday morning. A man must know his limits.
So it was early to bed that fateful night with 2 alarms set to ensure I didn’t snooze and turn off the alarm as I had done for FA Cup Final.
A fitful sleep was interrupted when both alarms sounded and this time I was immediately awake. It was a cold May morning but I hate jackets so it was a 1998 long sleeve away shirt and my favourite long sleeve centenary shirt along with jeans & comfortable doc martens.
It was too early for breakfast and too late to be sober so I grabbed a 500 ml can of Becks & a 500 ml can of Heineken for the walk from North Adelaide to the City pub.
Through deserted streets I drove 15 minutes to my planned parking spot and parked my car. Who knew when I would return to collect it. Then began the walk to the pub with a litre of beer to drink on an empty stomach to get me in the mood.
As I approached my destination- the “Rosemont Stadium” the remnants of Saturday night were looking worse for wear & attempting to catch taxis home. It’s probably a sign of my middle age that I thought “ aren’t these kids too young & where are the rest of the girls clothes?
With a litre of beer consumed in 12 minutes I was on the door step of the pub. There was a line up to get in but the doormen took one glance at me in my Chelsea shirt & scarf ushered me immediately.
Adelaide Chelsea numbering 50+ were in full voice having been there most of the last 6 hours, drinking heavily and ready to rumble. There were 10 German bombers in the Air was being belted out and I hit the ground running and was bellowing along with the Blue crew the instant I stepped into the pub.
First stop was the bar as I surveyed the scene. A reasonably packed bar with multi screens. A lot of Chelsea Adelaide and a mix of late night drinkers and general football fans. I spotted some Chelsea Adelaide stalwarts that I knew from the 90’s. True English Chelsea fans who ran the informal supporters group before social media and mass coverage of games. When we waited weeks & months to see a video tape of a game – the Cup Winners Cup game vs Tromso I clearly remember watching mere weeks after it was played thanks to a visiting South African Chelsea fan I think.
These were the days before the club had a website when the internet was in it’s infancy and Jax Chelsea site was an Aladdins Cave of Chelsea information for those on the other side of the world when a Div 1 Highlights package and days delayed scores were the norm.
So it was a long way from those days to the Champions League Final and Chelsea were in it – hardly dreamable!
I prefer to watch the games when I can concentrate on the game and can get rather tense during games so this venue is not ideal. Loud, crowded and some oppo supporters albeit, vastly outnumbered to add some spice.
The match kicked off with raucous Adelaide Chelsea dominating the singing, the pub bedecked in all manner of Chelsea flags. It was clearly Chelsea territory but the TV screens displayed a different story. We were on the rack for large parts of the game. “Pushing shit uphill” as we would say. It didn’t stop our support for a second and Adelaide Chelsea dominated the pub unlike our players vs Bayern. All the same, we didn’t crack and the scoreline didn’t change.
The tension built as the scores remained locked and small pockets of Bayern support – probably for one night only, irritated me.
When the Bayern goal came so late in the game and so many “Bayern fans” suddenly sprang to life it was nearly too much for me and I had to move from my spot as I seethed. Not from the goal, but these silent wankers with no colours suddenly celebrating.
It looked grim for Chelsea and faint hope was all but extinguished when Drogba headed the famous equaliser. The rosemont exploded and I was immediately in the face of the previously silent “Bayern Fans”. This might of turned ugly if not for their shock of conceding the goal and the ferocity of my verbal assault on these unsuspecting “fans”
And so into extra time with tension building further. I found a small side room with just a few people in it with a screen showing the game and decided I best get away from people that might aggravate me. As extra time went on so did the stress levels and then the penalty came.
As I could not bear to watch, I relied on another bystanders reaction.
And so launched into words of abuse to said bystander when he cheered until he pointed out Robben had missed and he was going for Chelsea. I felt about 3 ft tall after abusing this Arsenal supporting Ethiopian who on this night was cheering for Chelsea. We made up
Obviously 2 hours of torture isn’t complete without a penalty shootout to finish you off.
Given my fragile state – 5 am, 6 pints on an empty stomach I was extremely calm & composed. NOT. I paced, I fiddled, I couldn’t watch, I hung around the poker machines, I covered my ears. I was a bloody mess. I could no longer tell from the volume of noise as to who had scored, who had missed. I dared a peak at the scoreboard and worst fears were confirmed. The cruel torture was just about complete, faint hope dashed, dream shattered.
Then, when all was lost, Petr Chech in his infinite immensity proved a giant among giants. My heart rate slowed to 175 BPM, I began to breathe and Ethiopians were safe. I had to watch transfixed as our keeper changed the course of a Champions League final and our nominated penalty takers showed balls of granite.
DD stepped up to take the ultimate penalty and the rest is a blur.
I certainly was in tears.
I certainly was in disbelief
I certainly was in shock
While the rest of Adelaide Chelsea went fucking mental, I’m not entirely sure exactly what I was doing – emotion, relief, drunk, disbelief – all of the above.
I only recall 1 Bayern supporter complete with shirt and he was there at the bitter end- for them anyway and I did speak with him – still in shock of course. Just the opposite shock to what we were feeling. Fair play bloke!
The pub staff were keen to have us out as it was now around 0700 Sunday morning and it was bizarre for all the Adelaide Chelsea to be out on the footpath in broad daylight after such a night.
Confusion reigned as the first thing to do when you unexpectedly become champions of Europe. It soon became clear from precedents of past glories.’
Head to Victoria Square Fountain – the very centre of Adelaide. Strip off and get in.
Quite logical really when it is about 6 degrees but I wasn’t going to argue with established protocol.
30 or so worse for wear but delirious Adelaide Chelsea made our way to the very centre of Adeialde’s major square, stripped off – some with modesty preserved, others without for photos in the fountain. This might work in Madrid in May but it was frigid in Adelaide that May morning. All the same, few didn’t make the refreshing dip as – Champions of Europe – we do what we want.
Then some sanity returned and people started to think about where we could continue drinking at 0730 on Sunday morning. An aborted raid on Pancake Kitchen who wouldn’t serve jugs of beer for some reason saw us return to an Indian restaurant nearly opposite the pub we watched the match in.
A variety of meals AND drinks was ordered with all in twilight zone- what DO you order at an Indian restaurant at 0800 on Sunday morning?
So ended a momentous night and I made my way back to my parking spot in broad daylight where Colonel Light looked over Adelaide Oval.
Not sure if I should have driven home but once on the lounge there was only one thing to do- watch the replay, crack a 500 ml becks.
And so it began again
Yep, I called in sick to my former West Ham/C harlton player boss on Monday – he could kind of understand!
By Christopher Larwood, a.k.a. The Blue Roo and a listener to the Chelsea FanCast from the very beginning!