I remember this week being the week back in 2004 that Chelsea arrived in Seattle for the first time in a VERY LONG TIME. They were sporting a new manager that none of us had really seen, a young Captain who I had met for the very first time, a ton of new signings (an amazing young goalkeeper, couple of defenders from Portugal, and this winger and his “Batman) and this one player that arrived the day after they arrived. No one really knew who he was, some guy from Marseille that came from the Ivory Coast. When I first saw him, I had no idea who he was, but he looked hesitant and a bit out of place. Little did we know the guy with the strange name would be such a legend . . . Didier Drogba. But maybe it was me, as it was the first time I got to meet JT and I was beyond over the moon.
It was the first time that Chelsea supporters from around the country and from the UK all got together. Most of us not even knowing each other. We weren’t large, maybe 50 of us. We weren’t organized. We were staying here, there and everywhere. We all had tickets in different parts of the stadium. In a stadium that in subsequent years sold out, had only the first tier, half sold out. Tickets were cheap too. But thank goodness for someone that will remain nameless, who had a radio show that was pulling us all together and we all met at the George and the Dragon. We called limo vans to drive us to the stadium and OMG did we raise hell. Well, not really but when we arrived singing at the top of our lungs, flags flying, beers in hand, people looked at us like we were from Mars.
So that match against Celtic ended up being quite a big deal. It was also historic in a CIA perspective, as that is when I met Andy Burbidge and as they say the rest is history. It is his fault he put his idea in my brain and we spent the next year talking and imagining what CIA could become. We talked about a supporters club that stretched across the nation, bringing Chelsea supporters who thought they were alone into the fold so they didn’t have to feel so isolated. We spoke about growing a Blue Army in America. We dreamt about tours in the future, thinking about having 100 at a match, or organizing it so we could sit together. Having merchandise and raffles and more fun and more drinking. We had big dreams back in 2004, but they were only dreams. There was no Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, but Andy knew technology was key, so he created a little website for me and from there–slowly but surely–people found us.
Every summer I think back on that first summer. The fun we had and the dreams it encouraged. And now it is the summer of 2016 and there are hoards of CIA meeting at three locations across the country, not just a rag tag couple of dozen. We are all sitting together, staying in the same hotels, meeting at prearranged pubs, with amazing Star on a Stool events. We will have t-shirts and scarves and flags and more. There will be raffles and . . . well as they say, WHAT HAPPENS ON TOUR STAYS ON TOUR. And I get to see new faces and old friends. So if you see me on tour and I am looking around so amazed at what we have become and you see a little tear in my eye, or a lot, those are the definition of tears of joy! Because it is not me nor Andy that have built this amazing supporters club–IT IS ALL OF YOU! Your passion, your energy, your commitment. Uou have made an incredible association of people that I am honored to be a part of.
LITTLE DID WE KNOW, all sorts of dreams would come true, and sometimes what you dare not to dream comes true as well. Thank you one and all for making this old lady’s dreams come true