Chelsea FC: Blues in the Boroughs

Photos by Jordan Beard

Football is the world's game.

No matter where one travels, the sport follows. Whether through a kickabout or a conversation, football provides a platform and language for exchange and understanding. It's a sport that binds the globe's many people and unites us with a ball.

Technology has broken down walls, and the the limitations that time zones and geographical distances had imposed for so many years have suddenly evaporated.  On matchdays, whether it's breakfast in North America or dinner in Southeast Asia, hearts, minds, and television screens tune to a single location. It's kickoff in England.

This is a phenomenon reaching a crescendo on American shores. The world’s game has hit fever pitch stateside, and the world’s best football clubs now have proud and prominent moorings in neighborhoods and cities across the country.

Today, Chelsea FC’s world goes far beyond Stamford Bridge. With supporters in every corner of the globe, it’s a club whose local heart is situated in a hyper-global context.

From Brooklyn to the Bronx, every weekend thousands of New Yorkers wake up and march to pubs in the early morning hours to support their Blues. Their passion is felt, from social media to pilgrimages overseas. But it is rarely, if ever, seen.

As Chelsea moved into the city for a preseason tour, we searched for and followed the ways in which the club's supporters demonstrate their passion in The Big Apple—a hub of America's emerging, evolving football culture.

They come from all ages, represent a kaleidoscope of backgrounds, and while geographically separated from the club they adore, the passion of New York's Blues can be heard swelling across an ocean to Stamford Bridge.

Just as New York embodies the vitality and spirit of American diversity, it likewise reflects the pluralism of Chelsea's global family of supporters. This is a club that unites and binds people in every major city across the globe, connecting far-flung individuals from every walk of life  through a shared love of a club from West London founded in 1905.

These are a few of those fans joined by the crest.
These are the Blues in the Boroughs.

 

 

TRAVERSING THE EAST RIVER - 7AM

Living outside of Manhattan is often a struggle. But when you can punch through traffic, your commute into the city is met with open lanes and a summer breeze. Whether you’re weaving through taxis on the Brooklyn Bridge or blasting down Broadway on your way to the park, the bike offers a freedom you can’t find within the constraints of the subway. Plus, you don’t have to deal with that double Metrocard swipe.

DOMINIC KING: Quiet, but clearly a badass. The motorcycle is his escape from New York. This weekend he went up to Toronto. It’s not just his commuting device, it’s how he separates from the 8 million New Yorkers and connects with himself. Gentle giant. The nicest guy in the world, but you don’t want to be on his bad side.

MOTTO: Whether it’s a trip to a corner pub or a jaunt up north, doors open when it’s just you and the road. But no matter where the path takes you, you’ll always find a willing ear when you talk with football. Sure, it might be an Arsenal fan jeering your kit, but you’ve got to start somewhere.

UNION SQUARE - 9AM

The most iconic New York City experience occurs where the city isn't even visible. It takes place  underground, on summer days when the entire city—rich and poor, old and young, native and new New Yorker — jog down weary concrete steps into the hustle and bustle of the city’s  underground system. Below ground, walls break down as the city comes together to form a singular entity before diffusing to locations and cultures across the city’s boroughs and neighborhoods.

JAMES WILLIAMS: Not a quiet person. The blue adds a pop. Passionate, outspoken. Intellectual. His vocabulary is exceptional. His words make you sit and digest. Writes lyrics. He’s a singer and songwriter, using music as his outlet for creativity. He’s an activist.

MOTTO: “I was studying abroad when I fell in love with it [football]. It’s a cultural thing there; the sort of craze the entire country gets behind, and something that I wanted to experience first-hand. Those first strides were uncharted, but stepping inside Stamford Bridge made all the difference. From that first moment you feel the rhythm and and the passion from the supporters cascade across the entire stadium and you can’t help but be drawn in.”