The lesson of Chelsea By Sunny Ngwu

The striking events in the popular English football season for 2012 have confirmed that miracles, the will of God and destiny are realities despite the blossoming atheism in Britain and other parts of the western world.

They are the scientifically-inexplicable (miraculous) recovery of 23-year old Bolton FC mid-fielder, Congo-born Patrice Muamba  who suffered cardiac arrest during a match with Tottenham  Hotspurs FC and was said to have “died” for 18 minutes after the arrest but was eventually revived to life thanks to the sophistication of medical science, though.

Muamba’s recovery has stunned the western scientific community who, because of their orientation and increasing disposition to godlessness, are loath to ascribe mysteries to God, was compelled to use the word ‘miracle’ in analyzing the Muamba “resurrection”.

Even the emergence of Chelsea FC of London, England as European club football champions recently  after an epic encounter with Bayern Munich of Germany at the latter’s home ground is replete  with destiny and even miracle.

Given the impassable and difficult route through which Chelsea had to go before arriving at victory, only a dreamer would have forecast, just three months ago that that they would emerge European Champions in 2012 besides wining the prestigious F.A. Cup.

In his characteristic appetite for high-wire and high-profile coaches, Chelsea owner, Jewish Russian billionaire, Ibramovich, went for high-profile young Portugese coach, Villas Boas who led Porto FC of Portugal to double  Europa championship paying him an annual 10 million-pound-salary in a three-year contract with a 13-million pound buy-out clause.

By the clause, the Chelsea financier was obliged to pay him off with that amount should he find his services below par and would want to get rid of him.

And that was actually the situation about three months ago, when under his watch, Chelsea was irretrievably slipping down the English league ladder and got a humiliating 1-4 away drubbing in the Champions league by the Italian club, Napoli.

It was therefore a club in a hopeless position that former Chelsea player and assistant to former manager, Villas Boas, Roberto Di Mateo inherited when he was handed over the management of Chelsea about three months ago.

The Spanish recorded one incredible success after another. First, Chelsea overcame the Napoli hurdle which even the greatest optimist was pessimistic of Chelsea’s victory over the Italians who they defeated 3-0 at home having lost 4-1 away to emerge ultimately victorious with the away-goal rule.

Then the next formidable hurdle for Chelsea was the masterful European Champions, Barcelona FC, reputed to be playing the best football in history with their delightful passing game against which opponents have been unable to find answers to. The consensus was that Barcelona would smash Chelsea into smithereens. This  prediction did not come to fruition. Though the Spanish side dominated play away and home, they could not break down Chelsea’s well organized defence and were eventually got eliminated at the semi-final by the English side that concentrated on defence than attack home and away.

Then in the finals between the German side, Bayern Munich Chelsea was the underdog as usual. Pundits were sure the odds were heavily stacked against Chelsea. For one, the final was being played at their opponent’s home ground. For another, three of their key players including their influential captain, John Terry, were barred from the match out of suspension.

But as usual too, despite being outplayed in the open game by the opponent, Chelsea overcame, rubbishing all the pundits to become the champions of European Club football in the year 2012.

Chelsea’s celebration for their  victory has been universal, testifying to their solid global support base more so  in Nigeria where the club’s followership is outrageously fanatical with reports of fatality among celebrating fans.

But many of the Nigerian fans have ascribed their club’s victory to the “will of God” which is a tacit admission that Chelsea did not play the best of football but managed to emerge victorious – and champions.

Before Chelsea’s ascendancy one had always opposed bringing in God to arbitrate in football matters arguing that the Almighty may not be interested in siding with any of His children engaged in such contests. But one has been constrained to change his views.

However, deploying mundane parameters to explain  Chelsea’s triumph, it is easy to see that experience was the underlying factor that saw the club through.

The former manager, Villas-Boas, surprisingly failed to understand this hence he failed as Chelsea’s coach. He came in with a mindset to rebuild Chelsea derided as an aged team comprising Drogba (34), Lampard (31), Ashley Cole (30), John Terry (31) and others in their late 20’s and early 30’s with such special talents as Nicholas Anelka and Alex forced out.

But immediately he came on board Di Mateo worked on the psychology of these players who committed to paying back the coach’s confidence in them and played their best football in many years. The result showed immediately.

This relates to the pressure on the coach of the national football team, the Super Eagles, to make use of the players in the local league to execute his programmes. Without doubt the idea of encouraging the home-based professionals is laudable, but as said by the respected former Super Eagles’ captain, Jay Jay Okocha, the home-based footballers will need about three more years to mature to meet tough oppositions.

Predictably, some critics have railed at Okocha for that view. Yet Super Eagles Coach, Stephen Keshi must have learnt useful lessons from Chelsea over the indispensability of experience for success in football.


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