Has it gone in?

Last updated : 01 May 2007 By By Mark Colby

I have followed Chelsea for over 30 years. During that time I have watched the Blues from the Directors' box - thanks to the father of a school friend, who was a business associate of then chairman Brian Mears, the Shed and, more recently, various vantage points in the new stadium.
Being present at a game, rather than simply watching it on TV, offers a continued emotional roller coaster and level of intensity that is addictive. That is why I continue to go to games, although I am registered blind.

When I first going to the Bridge I had normal vision, but about 15 years ago I lost the majority of my sight due to a degenerative neurological disease. This was a difficult time and, in my despondency, I gave up many everyday activities including going to Chelsea.

Now, I am back and going to away fixtures in the Champions League.
My interest was reawakened by the famous 4-2 FA Cup win over Liverpool in 1997 when I discovered that by sitting very close to the TV I could actually see what was going on. This was followed the next season by a trip to Stamford Bridge to watch a League Cup tie against Blackburn. The game went to penalties which, luckily, were taken right in front of me in the Harding Lower - I was hooked again.

Since then I have become a disabled member and now receive three or four free tickets from the club per season.
This is very generous but, since I must pay full price otherwise, I now go to far fewer games than I used to when disabled tickets were significantly cheaper. However, my desire to see the Blues in action is as strong as ever and I particularly enjoy trips abroad in the Champions League.

This season I have been to Bremen and, last week, Valencia. Before the game in Germany there was a bit of pushing and shoving by fans trying to get into the ground.
The Bremen stewards reacted by indiscriminately spraying the crowd with mace, and unfortunately I was directly in the firing line. Not a pleasant experience. I recovered sufficiently to take my seat in the ground along with a friend who, although not a Chelsea fan, had joined me on the trip and agreed to provide commentary.
He began by saying Chelsea have kicked off and are attacking down the right when the guy in front of us turned round and said:"No, they're not, Chelsea are the team in black."

Fortunately, my commentator in Valencia was more on the ball and not only knew which team was which but also identified individual players on both sides - correctly, too, as far as I could tell.
Our tickets, acquired through a friend, were high in the main stand over the halfway line - a superb vantage point, even though we were surrounded by noisy Valencia fans. I do have some sight and can make out the general flow of the game.
In addition, if the action is within my limited field of vision I can see pieces of it. I almost always miss the goals.
The last one I actually saw was William Galla's last-minute winner against Tottenham last season as I had a perfect view of the ball's trajectory from my seat in the Shed end.

In Valencia, as Chelsea launched yet another attack on the home goal in the dying minutes, I could just make out Essien kicking the ball on the right side of the penalty area.
But I couldn't see if it was a cross or a shot or what had happened to the ball.
"Has it gone in?" I asked.
My mate didn't need to answer. The Mestalla, previously a cauldron of Spanish passion, went completely quiet except for the tremendous sounds of celebration coming from the massed ranks of Chelsea fans high in the stands behind the goal.
Yes, it had!