Where’s the support?

JAMES MALIN
STAFF WRITER

I’m a Chelsea supporter. I’ve been a season ticket holder since 2002, and I love the club. However, over the past four months I feel that I’ve become alienated from Chelsea Football Club.

When I go to Stamford Bridge, I go with every intention of supporting my team through good and bad times. Unfortunately, that cannot be said for a very vocal majority of fans.

These people go to games with the intention of harming and bullying, a certain individual. That individual is Spanish coach Rafael Benítez, who is currently Chelsea’s interim manager, and who replaced fan-favorite and Chelsea legend Roberto Di Matteo. Under Di Matteo, Chelsea enjoyed great successes, winning the highly-sought after Champions League and the FA Cup last year. In November, Di Matteo was deemed surplus to requirements at Chelsea following a period of poor results in the Premier League and early elimination from the Champions League in the group stage, the first stage and earliest elimination in Chelsea’s history. What happened next was a shock to all Chelsea fans as Rafael Benítez, former Liverpool manager, was appointed interim manager.

-Since his appointment, Benítez has been public enemy number one because during his tenure as Liverpool manager, he spoke several times in an insulting manner about Chelsea and its fans.

From that day in November Chelsea have been a mess both on and off the pitch. The fans that were so integral to Chelsea’s success last season have become disillusioned. The only noise made by supporters at Chelsea games now are merely protests against Benítez.

When I see this taking place I am filled with rage. These so-called “fans” are doing nothing but creating a poisonous atmosphere for the players. Chelsea’s form has dropped since Benítez’s take over as manager, as one would expect when there is no positive support to speak of, and people are quick to call for Benítez’s head. Not only is this oversimplifying Chelsea’s problems, it is worsening Chelsea’s situation. For a struggling team the only way to get back to form is if everyone is pulling in the same direction and this is obviously not the case at Stamford Bridge.

Back in the glory days, Chelsea adopted an “us against the world” approach. This philosophy remained after Mourinho’s departure and was a huge factor in Chelsea’s Champions League success last season.

The collective belief and hope that circulated around Stamford Bridge in the latter stages of last season’s Champions League competition was remarkable. Players have recently spoken about how important the support was for the team. Now that this support has dissipated, success has gone with it as well.

Chelsea is not the only club where a poisonous atmosphere is beginning to spread; its London rival, Arsenal is suffering a similar problem.

Arsenal’s situation is much worse than Chelsea’s, though. Chelsea is a club that has been extremely successful, winning 11 trophies in the last decade. Arsenal, on the other hand, is without a major trophy in the past eight years. For Arsenal, success has dropped down the priority list, replaced by the need for “beautiful” football and massive profits as the main goal.

Arsenal used to pair beautiful football with success, most notably in the 2003-2004 season, when they went a whole Premier League season unbeaten and broke the record for longest streak, finishing at 49 consecutive games without a loss. In those 49 games Arsenal took the league by storm, led by Thierry Henry who epitomized their class and sheer quality.

Fans are, however, beginning to grow extremely tired of Arsenal’s lack of success and ambition. Recently, there has been a growing amount of Arsenal’s “support” calling for Arsene Wenger, their manager’s, dismissal.
Similar to Chelsea, there is a growing culture of discontent at Arsenal’s stadium on match days. These fans bring an air of hostility to Arsenal’s home games at The Emirates Stadium, fully committed to their campaign: “Wenger Out.”
The fans that go to Arsenal games every weekend booing the team and singing negative songs such as “we want our Arsenal back” are only hurting the team. Similar to the Chelsea situation, the team is losing its fans and is playing in front of an atmosphere equivalent to that of a funeral: Somber.

I believe that paying supporters have the right to harbor and voice their opinions but not in a way that isn’t beneficial to the team. While they claim to be acting in the best interests of the club as supporters, they are harming more than benefiting their team.

It’s okay to disagree with the manager. It’s okay to hate the manager. It’s not okay, however, to hurt the team’s collective effort. When fans enter the stadium they have to understand the consequences of their booing. The creation of a hostile and poisonous atmosphere is merely entering the club into a self deprecating cycle; the team loses, the fans boo, the team loses, the fans boo and so on. It’s time for these supposed fans to get behind their team and push them over the finish line.

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