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Blue is the colour and Chelsea is the name encrusted on the hearts of followers of the English Premier League champions in the kingdom.
The first official Chelsea Supporters Club – Bahrain was recently launched at the Bahrain International Circuit attracting scores of passionate followers.
The supporters club is made up of fans and volunteers from different backgrounds who have pooled together to make the dream a reality. Businessman Abdulrahman Almoayed helped drive the initiative forward and said: “We are proud to have the Chelsea Supporters Club in Bahrain, giving fans an opportunity to meet and develop relationships. The idea is to welcome everybody and create a grass-roots community that enhances Chelsea’s reach in the region.
“The goal is also to celebrate the successes, support each other when things don’t turn out as we hoped and introduce the younger generation of Chelsea fans to each other, while giving members access to the club in London.
“A while back we started a WhatsApp group which kept growing in size. I felt there was an administrative role required in getting all the details and submitting them centrally, which I did. In conjunction with the application process, we spent about a year-and-a-half going back and forth, after which we managed to become the ‘official’ supporters club.
“It’s an honour to be the person who organised that aspect and I’m very keen on getting the continuity and growth aspects in place for future volunteers.
“Overall, the reaction has been very positive from within and from outside the club! The passion drives these members and I’m keen to keep that alive going forward.”
More than 100 Chelsea fans attended the launch event, described as a ‘massive success’ by attendees, and it was backed by various businesses too. “We managed to promote the club, add registrations and gave away more than 24 gifts to fans ranging from TVs to gift vouchers,” said Abdulrahman, 35, who is married to Dana and has two sons, Rashid, five, and Fahad, four, ‘both Chelsea supporters from Day 1’.
Not surprisingly, supporting Chelsea is a family affair. “Technically, I started supporting Chelsea the day I was born too as my father lived in London during his youth and I was born into a Chelsea family,” Abdulrahman explained.
“The fascination with it really kicked off when we reached an age where other kids were interested in football and following results. This created a competitive attitude in school towards football and specifically, the Premiership. Unfortunately, I didn’t often come to school on Sundays with a smile on my face in those early days!”
He actively started supporting them towards the end of 1993 when he had a chance to attend a game with his father at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea’s home ground since the club was founded in 1905.
That season Chelsea finished 14th, three places lower than the previous one, and got hammered 4-0 by Manchester United in the FA Cup Final. The wait for a major trophy entered its 24th season.
But that was all about to change. The club went on to pick up 21 trophies from 1997, including six titles, seven FA Cups, five League Cups and four FA Community Shields, one UEFA Champions League, two UEFA Cup Winners’ Cups, one UEFA Europa League and one UEFA Super Cup, mostly under the ownership of Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich.
In 2017, they were ranked by Forbes magazine as the seventh most valuable football club and are now among the most widely supported in the world.
“As we saw during the launch of the Chelsea Supporters Club Bahrain, the passion in Chelsea fans is unlike anything I’ve seen,” said Abdulrahman. “Although it would have been nice to have grown up with a club that had won it all, to have lived through the harder times was an experience that helped shaped me and created a further passion that is ingrained.
“The club has gone through various phases, but is still on the rise, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for us.”
Like all the chasing clubs this season, Chelsea appear to have no chance of catching runaway leaders, Manchester City, and reclaiming their crown.
“It’s going to be tough to beat Manchester City this season. Unfortunately, for a team to take the league this year, you need the right mix of talent and luck, and I’m afraid we’re not there this season. But I’m optimistic about a Champions League spot.”
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte’s second season in charge is proving much tougher than his first. He and the fans will be hoping Olivier Giroud, right, signed from neighbouring rivals Arsenal for 18 million pounds ($25 million) during the transfer window, can make a positive contribution.
They still have it all to play for including a chance of further Champions League success if they can overcome the daunting challenge of Spanish giant’s Barcelona in the knock-out phase of the competition.
The Chelsea Supporters Club Bahrain, whose members include His Highness Shaikh Isa bin Ali Al Khalifa, will certainly hope so. The launch event was held under his patronage and he was accompanied by Hasan Al Nagoor, a shareholder in Chelsea FC and vocal supporter in the region and beyond.
But it’s not just royals and wealthy businessmen behind the Blues movement. “We’ve got people from all over Bahrain, which is the beauty of the club,” added Abdulrahman.
Numerous companies jumped on board to help with the launch including Khalid Almoayed & Sons, Bahrain International Circuit, Jawad Business Group, F45 Functional Training, Eastern Bakery, Gajria Electronics, AutoMAX, Fine Foods, Arsan Tailoring, Movie Munchies, Cavalli Cafe, Kasbah and WOK Station.
And that was only the start. “We’ve got much more lined up!” said Abdulrahman. “We’ve got a few gatherings planned and lots of gifts and Chelsea merchandise to give away. Once we get the technical aspects set up, I’d love to see group trips planned to London to watch some fixtures, and potentially meet some players. The sky’s the limit!
“We’re always looking for more members. The membership now basically handles events and gatherings, and encourages discussion on the team and recent performances. There’s no age limit or cost, as we’re not registered with the Ministry of Social Affairs yet, but have begun the process.”
Supporters who want to join can contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more details or call Abdulla BuAli on 36939312.