Dubai’s Loca bar may not be Stamford Bridge, but the football fans gathered there last Sunday certainly displayed some of the boisterous energy found at Chelsea F.C.’s home ground.
And why not? With the return of José Mourinho as manager of the Premier League team, the chatter of the fans at Loca – one of two regular meeting spots for the UAE Chelsea Supporters’ Club – was undeniably optimistic.
Every dramatic moment during Sunday night’s game against the Hull Tigers saw the Chelsea supporters rise to their feet, vocal in their support of the West London team again headed by Mourinho, the self-proclaimed ‘special one’.
Mourinho’s first game back in charge of Chelsea led to a 2-0 victory against Hull – and left many of the team’s UAE fans hopeful they will clinch the trophy.
“Really happy with the start, players were on fire… Mourinho is a master at holding a result,” Lee Sporle, head of the UAE Chelsea Supporters’ Club, told Al Arabiya after the game.
To the delight of its supporters, Chelsea announced on June 3rd that Mourinho would once again be manager of the London club after a previous stint at Stamford Bridge from 2004 to 2008.
A week later Mourinho proclaimed at a press conference that he is now the ‘happy one’ on his return to Stamford Bridge – a play on his previous nickname.
The news went down well with Chelsea supporters in the Middle East.
“The UAE Chelsea Supporters’ Club members are extremely excited about José ‘the happy one’ Mourinho [being] back in charge,” exclaimed Sporle. “Since his departure we have won the three FA Cups, the Premiership, European Cup and the Champions League… but we have felt like a ship with no rudder.”
Toby Young, another member of the UAE Chelsea Supporters’ Club, said he was hopeful that Mourinho could provide some of the direction the club needs. “The club needs stability and I am hopeful Mourinho can provide that,” he said.
“With everything said and done I believe Mourinho wants to stay long-term and create a legacy much like [Sir Alex] Ferguson at Manchester United; it's just a question of whether he will be able or allowed to.”
Chelsea supporters from the wider Middle East also welcomed the return of the manager to the club.
“I think we had the biggest win in [the] summer’s transfer window by signing with José Mourinho,” said Mohsen Samoudi, head of the Chelsea Supporters’ Club of Iran. “As he said he is the ‘happy one’ now; for sure we are happy with him as well, and he could add more big trophies to Chelsea.”
Such optimism is not unfounded. In the 2004/05 season, Mourinho’s Chelsea secured their first top-flight domestic title in 50 years, setting a string of English football records in the process, including the most points ever achieved in the Premier League (95), and the fewest goals conceded (15).
Some have observed that Mourinho is like a new man this season, looking more controlled and less unconventional; the manager himself acknowledges that he feels “calm” at the helm of the Chelsea squad.
Many Chelsea supporters now hope that Mourinho will build on what he left at the beginning of the 2007/08 season, after a string of poor results.
With Mourinho’s degree in sports science, the ‘happy one’ is said to bring a psychological slant to the game, delving deeper than purely the players’ action and tactics on the field.
Yesterday’s clean sheet could be the first of many good results, if the hopes of the UAE Chelsea Supporters’ Club come true.
“[For the] first time ever at the start of a season… I believe we can win the Premiership,” said Sporle.
However not all Chelsea supporters were so sure. “As an eternal pessimist, coming from years of watching Chelsea, think this season will be a lot closer than most people think,” said Young.
Yet optimism still reigned supreme among the Chelsea supporters gathered at the Loca bar, who wore shirts emblazoned with the slogan ‘Care free in the UAE’. With Mourinho back at the helm, the attitude of the ‘happy one’ proves infectious.