No one could say it was easy for Chelsea to reach the Club World Cup final, given our at times torturous campaigns in the Champions League and the nerve-jangling way we eventually triumphed last season.
And no one could say it is easy for the Chelsea fans who have travelled over from the UK to support the team in the bid to win this global trophy.
It is 6,000 miles between London and Yokohama and everyone knows time spent in Japan is not going to be cheap. There is jet lag to overcome both ways and then of course, for many of the band of Blues who have made the journey, as soon as they touch down at home they will have to think about heading up to Leeds for Wednesday’s cup game. It is a lot of time off for those in work.
Close to 1,000 Chelsea fans have travelled from other countries to Japan to watch Sunday’s final and their number will be swelled by Japanese supporters of the club.
Frank Lampard and Rafael Benitez have praised those who have made such an effort.
‘The Chelsea fans were great in a small contingent for the semi-final,’ Lampard said. ‘Many have travelled all the way from London so I can’t thank them enough. The Chelsea fans have always been amazing for me and the team and that has carried on here.
‘It is a long way to ask them to come and for them to put their hands in their pockets and come over here is fantastic.’
Benitez said after the Monterrey game: ‘I was really pleased to see 1,000 of our fans, it is important when you know what it means to come here from England. It is good and I am pleased for them. Hopefully we can win the title for our fans.’
With plenty of time to fill between the semi-final and final, there have been excursions of Chelsea fans heading to sights such as Mt. Fuji, prominent on the Yokohama horizon, and world heritage site Nikko.
Many are staying in adjacent Tokyo where there is no shortage of places to visits. The official Chelsea website spoke to two of the travelling support – Chris Hopkins and Daryl Williams from south-west London.
‘About a month after we won in Munich, Daryl rang me and said I know this is random and you are probably going to say no but do you fancy going to the Club World Cup in Japan. And I said okay, why not,’ says Chris.
‘You don’t get opportunities like this very much, unless you go on the pre-season tour but the games there don’t mean much,’ adds Daryl. ‘This is a big thing, we want to win this and be champions of the world.
‘Some people back at home who haven’t come out are saying it is like glorified friendlies but once you are out here it is different, and we only need this one and the Europa League to have won every trophy. That’s the one silver lining from playing on Thursdays!’
‘It is not cheap, you have to be passionate about it to do it.
‘It is going to take a while to pay this trip off, and as soon as I do the renewal will come through for the season ticket!’ says Chris. ‘But we are never going to do it again, so why not?’
Fans from England were pleased to find their seats for the semi-final mostly together, helping to match the noise from the Mexican end, but there was also mixing with enthusiastic Japanese in Chelsea shirts too, high-fiving when the goals went in. They had their own song as well to the bemusement of the regular choir. There is a strong Chelsea contingent from Australia here too.
English fans have begun to adopt the face marks worn in this part of the world to guard against airborne infection. When you see them sported in the away section up at Elland Road next week, you’ll know why.
There is plenty of praise for the Japanese hospitality, from help from the stadium staff to put up flags and banners to locals going far way out of their way to walk lost tourists to their destination.
Come the game on Sunday, the Chelsea support will need to be in good voice to make themselves heard with somewhere around 20,000 Corinthian fans expected.
‘There were more Corinthian fans than Chelsea fans on our plane from London,’ Chris points out.
‘A lot flew from Brazil to Madrid, Madrid to London and then London to here. They were down the back of the plane singing and dancing the whole way. Very friendly but it was a bit like a carnival, but we haven’t seen them around town because their first game was in another city.
‘It has been really good so far but that won’t mean anything if we lose on Sunday,’ says Daryl. ‘That is the big thing for us now. It would be a good to go to Leeds as world champions.’