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Chelsea Vs. Newcastle Diary: My First EPL Experience On The Way To Notre Dame In Dublin

SB Nation Chicago's Z.W. Martin will be in the UK and Ireland until September 3rd. He will be reporting back on his experiences with sport in each foreign country. Today he discusses watching Chelsea vs. Newcastle.

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Since I didn't make this abundantly clear the first time I sent a report back from Europe a few days ago, here's the deal: I am traveling to London, Edinburgh and Dublin with the initial motive of the trip to watch the Notre Dame Fighting Irish play that stupid squad that mostly defends our country with boats, Marines and tower buzzes. (Fun fact: the Navy has more planes than the Air Force by a large margin.) However, through my travels here, I have met wonderful people who have many interesting opinions on sport and find these interactions interesting. Like how American football is soft compared to rugby. I also saw Chelsea take on Newcastle in a match at Stamford Bridge. (That's in Chelsea. Imagine if Wrigley Field was placed in the middle of Halstead and Armitage in Lincoln Park. It's super nice.) Today, I will be discussing this experience. Cheers!

My family and I stayed at the Millennium hotel in Chelsea, which was literally built right next to Stamford Bridge. (It's actually closer to the stadium than the official gift shop of the Chelsea F.C.) We were running somewhat late after a day of toursisty crap, but were able to wander through the hotel's bar for a second before the 5:30 match. The intensity and pints being downed were equally impressive. We changed and headed to the stadium.

After quickly glancing at our tickets, we followed the concourse to gate 3, walking through a series of temporary metal fences until we ended up at a ticket scanning machine, which would give us access to a full-length body turnstile and then our seats. The light flashed red, denying our entry. A female Chelsea employee snagged my ticket, sighed and told us our seats were on the other side of the stadium. Half-jokingly, half-embarrassingly my mom said, "Sorry. We're American." The women sighed again and then quickly escorted us out of tunnel 3, informing us we had to walk around to the other side.

My dad, who had just finished up some work ran into us in the hotel/pub/official-Chelsea-F.C.-store square by chance on our way out. He started to lead us towards a small alley that connected the two sides of the stadium. Unfortunately, there were five security guards. After a quick back and forth, it turned out that was the entry spot of the Newcastle supporters and without a ticket to that section, you were not allowed in. Apparently, fighting is a bit of a football tradition.

After a brisk walk, another cattle-like series of metal fences and scanner check point, we finally arrived to our section's concessions area. The first thing I noticed: "No beer beyond this point" was on every tunnel leading to the pitch. We took our seats about two minutes in. Nothing had happened of consequence yet, but I was extremely enthused to be sitting only a section and a half away from the Newcastle supporters. If my understanding of Newcastle was correct, this was going to be a memorable night. I was not to be disappointed. Two minuets later, this chant was thrown from their section:

Your support
Your support
Your support is fucking shit

Chelsea's retort:

We know who we are
We know who we are
Champions of Europe
We know who we are

(Chelsea won the Champions League title last season.)

The small section of Newcastle supporters, lined by security guards on either side, was loud and uproarious throughout the match, easily drowning out Chelsea's with their many chants. (A little more on that later.) Unfortunately, their support did not translate to the pitch. At the 21 minute mark in the first half, Chelsea's Eden Hazard was tripped in the penalty box and was awarded a free kick, putting it away easily in the lower left corner. The stadium, packed with 41,718 fans, erupted. Massive amounts of jeers were thrown between Chelsea and Newcastle supporters, which naturally included the American finger, the English fingers -- ironically our peace sign, knuckles out -- and many many wanking motions.

Chelsea's Fernando Torres was the center of many attacks by the Newcastle supporters after a few no calls on possible trips by Newcastle defenders, and after receiving a questionable yellow card for a dive. The animosity only escalated throughout the match, but was quieted briefly in extended time in the first half when Torres got his revenge, putting a beautiful give-and-go with Hazard away with a left to right bending shot, using the outside of his right foot, guiding the ball into a two-by-two foot window in the upper right corner, just outside the reach of the diving goalie.

Chelsea's turn:

He scores when he wants
He scores when he wants
Fernando Torres he scores when he wants

The horn sounded moments later.

Halftime went by quickly as I enjoyed a pint with my brother and dad in the concession concourse. The doors to the Newcastle section, just one over, were shut tightly, guards allowing nobody near. We went back to our seats as the second half began.

There was no scoring in the second half, but there were some good runs by Newcastle, who turned up the pressure, lofting crossing passes over and over again, missing their intended targets, either floating over the center of the pitch or to the heads of Chelsea players. Chelsea was clearly the better squad, with a deeper group of talented players who had a much easier time moving the ball from end to end with nifty passing and quick foot work. The match ended 2-0 Chelsea.

On the other hand, the action in the stands was a distinct victory for Newcastle. Some good banter, hand motions -- from wanking to kiss blowing -- and general distaste were being tossed between both teams' supporters. What was interesting was the security guards warning Chelsea fans about taunting and listening to Newcastle's fans complaints first and foremost, even if it appeared to me that many of the verbal fights were started by Newcastle supporters.

However, when the game was locked up, the Newcastle fans turned their jeers to chants of support for their team.

We love Newcastle, we do
We love Newcastle, we do
We love Newcastle, we do
Oh, Newcastle we love you

To the rhythm of "When The Saints Go marching In":

Oh, when the Mags
Go marching In
Oh, when the Mags go marching in
I want to be in that number
Oh, when the Mags go marching in

Much like hockey, it's impossible to understand what a football game is really like until it's seen live. The intensity of the stadium, the intricacy and skill of the player's on the pitch, it cannot be truly comprehended until it's witnessed in person. I now get why it's the most beloved game in the world.

Z.W. Martin is a staff writer for SB Nation Chicago and will be in the UK and Ireland until September 3rd. He will be in attendance for Chelsea vs. Newcastle at Stamford Bridge and then Notre Dame vs. Navy at Dublin's Aviva Stadium. Follow him on Twitter @ZWMartin or email him at