Blues in the Boroughs
A project by Where Is Football, in association with Chelsea Football Club and Street Etiquette
No matter where one travels, football 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 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, they searched for and followed the ways in which the club's supporters demonstrate their passion in New York City — 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 can be heard swelling across an ocean to Stamford Bridge.
Just as New York embodies the vitality and spirit of American diversity, it also 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 the stories of some of Chelsea's many New York City-based supporters.
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.
The Situation: 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 making fun of your kit, but a conversation has to start somewhere.
The Blue: Dominic — Much like the weekend mornings he spends with his club, Dominic’s motorcycle is how he escapes from New York’s commotion. The city may not ever sleep, but Dominic is still able to hit the streets before it wakes up. Dominic’s ride not just his means of transportation, it’s how he connects with himself in a city filled with 8 million people.
UNION SQUARE, MANHATTAN - 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 boroughs and neighborhoods of New York.
The Blue: James — As articulate as he is passionate. James is not a quiet person, but every word contains clear intent. A singer and songwriter, his lyrics carry a rhythm that trails his steps from the sidewalk to the terraces.
“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.”
PROSPECT HEIGHTS, BROOKLYN - 2PM
Break days don’t exist when you’re working towards a goal. Life's aperture closes on a single aim and it's one you can only meet with steady sacrifice. As the uneven concrete swelters in the summer sun, body aching with each extra stride, just remember that you’re doing this for yourself and not anyone else.
The Situation: Brownstone after brownstone, the cultures of the city open with each passing block, manifesting the diversity of the city’s population and neighborhoods. But no matter where that run takes you, you’ll always be a New Yorker.
The Blue: Adia — When Adia speaks up, it’s for good reason. She is in many ways her own team, independent with dozens of layers and influences that permeate her everyday life. She’s fashionable, but also leaves space for fandom, from football to super heroes. Running is her release as her presence and vibrant blue emanate across her surroundings. The only one who can paint a picture of Adia is Adia.
BEDSTUY, BROOKLYN - 3PM
When you bike in New York City or Brooklyn, you bike everywhere. Across sidewalks, through parks and in the streets and avenues of one of the world’s most heavily trafficked cities. To first-timers, the cityscape can seem to meld into a single being, with each city block replicating the next. But to long-time residents, local styles can be read in every shop window and doorstep across the city’s multitude of neighborhoods.
The Situation: It seems irreconcilable, but it’s the distinct local flavors that create a unifying, city-wide culture that connects the farthest flung borough to the the neighborhoods in the heart of the city.
The Blue: Joshua — Social progress comes from within, a fact that defines Joshua’s life. A native New Yorker, Joshua is just as vocal outside the stadium as he is in the stands. Growing up across the city, he was exposed to every culture imaginable. Football is a way to express himself, but also to understand the people around him. He knows that he is one of many, but sees this only as a greater opportunity to be heard rather than a reason to stay silent. Being part of something larger is part of what allows him to be himself.
WALL STREET, MANHATTAN - 5PM
It isn’t easy to represent your club on match days when you’re working in the world’s financial epicenter. Surrounded by stark skyscrapers and the persistent buzz of day traders and analysts, you have to get creative with your support.
The Blue: Matt — To many, football’s ability to connect one person with the notion of shared, universal experience that transcends borders and boundaries is its greatest appeal. The son of a trader, Matt’s interests in football extend beyond the final whistle, to the ways in which the global business of the game connects supporters across the world. To Matt, nothing is more welcome on a Saturday morning than seeing a goal created by Spaniards, Brazilians, Ivorians, and Serbians working together seamlessly.
“I’ve always been passionate about the club, but it’s the place of the sport in a global context that really interests me right now. It’s not just that football breaks down walls, but that it gives all of us a common ground with people from across the globe.”
LINDSAY PARK, BUSHWICK - 7PM
The local park is filled with young talent searching for a game. Sure, you can play 21 when you’ve got too many players and not enough courts, but the real challenge comes during daily one-one-one games. It’s just your skills versus theirs, straight up, and you can’t rely on other players to compensate for your weak jumper. This isn’t football, but sport is sport in a city enveloped by skyscrapers where field space comes at a high cost. Sport is the outlet — and it doesn’t matter which one.
The Situation: At the end of the day, broken ankles are broken ankles, whether it comes from a crossover or a step over. When your man’s on the ground, jaw open as you drive past him, make sure to look back and kiss the badge.
The Blue: Antonio — Some say that confidence is a fault, but when you can back it up on the court, it’s not arrogance. If you’re ever in the city, you can find Antonio playing full-court with friends; but on the blacktop there are only opponents — and none of them can stop him.
(Joshua Kissi and Travis Gumbs)
Where Is Football
(Eric Beard, Zack Goldman, Maxi Rodriguez, Nathen McVittie)
'Blues In The Boroughs' was created in partnership with Chelsea Football Club.