The best and worst of the terraces revisited in Germany
Sunday's friendly match at Werder Bremen was a blast from the past for Chelsea fans.
August 7th, 2014
In saying that, I don’t just mean that we were rubbish – because we were – but the game carried that nostalgic bonus, for a few at least, of being able to stand and watch the team.
I paid my €11 for the novelty and enjoyed an experience, for around the price of a Dominos pizza, of being able to see the Blues humbled by a side almost relegated from the Bundesliga.
But at least I didn’t have to eat a Dominos pizza.
Cynicism aside, the rare chance to watch a game standing was well worth the trip (which, incidentally, counting return flights for £44 cost less than tickets to many a Premier League game).
Safe Standing, for that is exactly what it was, is not the terraces of old.
Every individual has a space akin to that of a seat. Indeed, they have a seat – though it is locked in the upright position, unusable except for in games where UEFA (or suchlike) deem it necessary.
The atmosphere in the small standing part of Chelsea’s away end in Germany was generally great – better than I would expect for a pre-season friendly, and certainly for one where we lost 3-0.
Singing was prevalent, and the bars that accompanied the locked out-of-use seats propped people up when the action on pitch struggled to do so.
The problem with it all, and this is no fault of Safe Standing, was an unfortunate aspect of those old times we like to hark back to.
While supping a pre-match beer with locally-based friends, there was the somewhat embarrassing apology that had to be issued for a predictable chorus of ‘Ten German Bombers’.
It’s not offensive (or so they told me), but it is a pretty tedious way to sing about the nation that proved a fantastic host to all those who travelled to the game.
But more of an issue than this was the quite appalling racist chanting.
There will be those reading this who will wish to take my words as an indication that Chelsea is a club followed by racists. That is not the case.
In fact it was notable that the one main protagonist of these chants was left to his own devices for much of his endeavours – flanked only by a largely silent wife and a confused-looking teenage son, neither of whom joined in.
It was great credit to those who travelled, that when he sung some of the most objectionally vile songs I’ve heard in a long while, that he was almost entirely ignored.
But sing he did. About gas chambers, and Hitler, and Jews in the oven.
I saw this man, complete with family, on my flight the following morning. He looked meek and mild, and slightly perturbed by airport security.
A fella more bothered about sorting his toiletries in 100ml packages, than in furthering the genocide he had sung about the day before.
Bremen was a brilliant trip – one I will cherish for a long time to come.
And a key part of that was the old school nature of it all – something which, hopefully, we will see again at the highest level in this game sometime soon.
But there were also reminders of an old school right thinking people never want to see.