This has been a very dramatic year so far for my beloved Chelsea FC. So far in 2022, they have experienced how sports intersect with world events, two heartbreaking cup final losses and winning a trophy that they had never won before.
Start of 2022
The Blues started the calendar year off with our biggest game of the season to that point home at Stamford Bridge against Liverpool. Chelsea had 42 points through 20 games which was eight points back of Man City who had also played 20 games. Meanwhile, Liverpool had 41 points but had only played 19 games.
This felt like a must-win game if they had any chance of winning the Premier League title for the first time in five years and they definitely couldn’t lose it.
Before Chelsea could play the game however the Lukaku interview came out. Romelu Lukaku the club record £97.5 million signing did an interview with Sky Italia just five months after joining us saying he wanted to leave the club, was happier at his previous club (Inter Milan) and worst of all he said that he was frustrated by the system (he knew what the system was and he knew he was joining the European champions). This caused all sorts of issues within the club and a dilemma for Thomas Tuchel.
Onto the game, Lukaku was dropped before the game but I was feeling strangely hopeful because they are Chelsea and Chelsea thrives in chaos. The confidence was gone when Mane and Salah scored for Liverpool within the first 30 minutes and Chelsea had to fight back and they did. Kovacic and Pulisic scored before the half to level it up but neither side could find a winner. I was proud they fought back to equalize yet disappointed that the club couldn’t get the win they needed to stay in the title race (I would feel proud but disappointed several more times in the next few months).
Then Chelsea started falling apart and a loss to Man City ended any sliver of hope the club may have had of winning the league title. However, they had a huge 2–0 win over bitter rivals Tottenham Hotspur to give us bragging rights and gave us ten points of breathing room to remain in the top four (Qualifying for the Champions League). The Blues also beat Tottenham home and away to make the League Cup Final which meant another Wembley final (made the FA Cup Final in 2020 and 2021 as well as the League Cup Final in 2019).
Club World Cup
After an FA Cup game against Plymouth Argyle, Chelsea was headed off to the UAE to try and win their first-ever Club World Cup. The last time they had a chance they lost to the Corinthians in the 2012 Final after their first Champions League win (the trophy that qualifies a team for the Club World Cup along with all other continental champions). The European team is always a heavy favourite (they are actually the last European team not to win the Club World Cup).
In the Club World Cup, the Blues had a bye to the semifinals. Then they had an underwhelming 1–0 win over Al Hilal. I was proud of the team for winning but disappointed in the performance. In the final, Chelsea faced Palmeiras the champions of South America. Early in the second half, they took the lead on a Lukaku goal but Palmeiras tied it up quickly after. Both sides started searching for a winner and Palmeiras actually had better chances but extra time beckoned. Late in extra time, they got a penalty that Havertz converted for the winning goal and the Blues were World Champions for the first time!
Carabao Cup Final
Fifteen days later we would play in the League Cup Final against Liverpool but by then it all was secondary when compared to global events. On February 24th Russia invaded Ukraine and this would have a major effect on our club because our owner Roman Abramovich is a Russian oligarch who actually recommended Putin to become the leader of Russia. Despite all of the drama surrounding us we fought hard. In a game full of missed chances, great saves and goals ruled out by VAR we managed to keep a clean sheet against the vaunted Liverpool attack. The problem was we couldn’t get a goal that counted ourselves and we headed to penalties. Kepa was subbed on for Mendy because he is good at saving penalties but he wasn’t good that day. Both sides made their first ten penalties and it was now down to the goalkeepers. Kelleher was first keeper to step up for Liverpool and he made his now it was Kepa’s turn for us but he missed over the bar. After he missed a feeling of pride in our performance and disappointment over the loss struck over me again.
The End of Roman
A few days later Roman Abramovich said he was selling the club. This was a necessary thing to do as the threat of sanctions was looming over him and the club as a whole. It was still a heartbreaking thing for us as he was the owner that made us the super club we are today, and was so supportive of the academy and the women’s team as well which many Premier League owners have not been. He also said he would donate all the proceeds of the sale to the victims of the war in Ukraine.
Roman’s decision to sell did not save us from sanctions however and when Abramovich was sanctioned we were as well. The sanctions were EXTREMELY harsh sanctions that hurt everyone involved with the club as well as the Ukrainian people who these sanctions were in "support" of. We couldn’t sell tickets, merchandise, renew contracts or spend more than 20,000 pounds on travel (which is no where near enough and was quickly raised). We had a game against Norwich that day but we managed to triumph 3–1. Once again I was proud of the team but disappointed (and very nervous) about the sanctions and what was ahead.
Roman Abramovich was later confirmed to be involved in peace talks between Russia and Ukraine and was allegedly poisoned (turned out to be tear gas). This made the sanctions even more unjust especially once it was revealed that Zelensky specifically asked countries not to sanction Abramovich.
We kept our good form throughout the drama however and we managed to win our next four league games, advance to the semifinals of the FA Cup and the quarterfinals of the Champions League against Real Madrid.
The Real Madrid Tie
We lost the first leg 3–1 at Stamford Bridge and it seemed over, but it wasn’t. We managed to start red hot at the Bernabeu scoring one in the first half by Mason Mount and then levelling it early in the second half on a Rudiger goal. Then a few minutes later Marcos Alonso appeared to have scored a go-ahead goal but VAR said it hit his hand and was disallowed. I was still confident we would win though because we had all the momentum. Soon enough Timo Werner scored to put us ahead and it looked like the winner. However, Luka Modric picked a fantastic pass to Rodrygo to give Real the goal to take them to extra time and Benzema who has been by far the best player in the world so far this year won it in extra time. I was SUPER proud of the team for coming back but SUPER disappointed that we had failed to defend our European crown especially since we had taken the lead back at the Bernabeu.
Part 2 will be out soon!
main image credits: