By Mike Ebonugwo
The atmosphere was electric, as it was expected to be. After all the two biggest clubs in the English Premiership and the archrivals for the league shield for the 2009/2010 season were each engaged in a final match that would determine who emerged winner. The commercial viewing centre was filled to capacity with fans or supporters of both clubs who boastfully praised and cheered their team of choice at the top of their voices.
To keep both factions of fans satisfied, the operator of the viewing centre ensured that there were two television sets, one showing the match involving Chelsea, popularly known as The Blues and the other showing the match involving Manchester United, idolised by its teeming supporters as the Red Devils. Before this final day of matches, Chelsea led Man U by a point on the league table, which means a draw or loss for them will see them conceding the Premiership title to their rival in the event of the latter winning their own match.
This two-horse race close finish between the rival club sides informed the keen interest the matches generated. But despite the point and goals difference advantage enjoined by The Blues over the Red Devils,Â the latterâ€™s supporters at the viewing centre were optimistically confident that the team would somehow conjure a winning formula to turn the table against their rival. But their expression of this sentiment was consistently drowned by the boastful chants of the more vociferous Chelsea fans.
So when Chelsea took the lead early in the first half in their match against Wigan Athletic, the centre exploded with noisy celebration by their overjoyed fans there. Shouts of â€œUp Chelsea! Up Chelsea!!â€™ reverberated around the place and indeed the entire neighbourhood. Most of the Man U supporters were too stunned to react, but one of them had sulkily quipped thus: â€œI sure say Abramovich(Chelseaâ€™s owner) don buy this match for Chelsea. That goal they scored against Wigan is too cheap. Didnâ€™t you see the way the defenders did not even bother to mark Anelka and allowed him to score?â€He became even more convinced of this when Chelsea scored a second goal through a penalty.Â But as far as the Chelsea supporters were concerned: â€œNa bad belle dey worry youâ€.
The drama was to change later when Man U recorded a goal in their own match. It sent their supporters in a frenzy of jubilation. This heightened when the club scored a second goal. But this time it was the turn of Chelsea supporters to complain that Stoke City must have sold the match to Man United. â€œI know Sir Alex Ferguson can do anything for Man U to win the league. That is why he has been boasting that Man U still has a chance of winning even though they are behind us by one point. Iâ€™m sure that they have bought both Stoke players and the referee, otherwise thereâ€™s no way they would have been able to score two goals against Stoke,â€ alleged one of these Chelsea fans.
But when Chelsea went â€˜goalwireâ€™, scoring goal after goal to bring the final score-line to 8-0, their fans went into wild celebration, taunting the Man U supporters with glee
Another point of contention that created tension among the rival fans was who between Didier Drogba and Wayne Rooney would emerge the highest goal scorer and golden boot winner since both players were then tied on 26 goals going into the final matches. The Chelsea fans were understandably rooting for Drogba while the Man U fans did the same for Rooney.
This is why when the referee awarded Chelsea a penalty, most of the fans expected Drogba to be allowed to take it. But this was not to be as Lampard stepped forward to score. A disappointed Chelsea supporter had immediately grumbled thus: â€œHa, Oyibo! Forget it O, Lampard did it deliberately; itâ€™s because Rooney is his team mate in the England national team; thatâ€™s why he rushed to take the penalty so that Drogba will not score and win the golden boot instead of Rooneyâ€..
Many of the other fans also shared this sentiment. But they were to be pacified when Drogba later went on to score three goals with Rooney scoring none.