‘My boyhood football club wants to kill me’

A poster that a youthful Abubaker Abed made in support of the Chelsea football club. Photo by Abubaker Abed, used with permission.

This story, written by Abubaker Abed, was originally published by We Are Not Numbers on February 8, 2024It was updated and revised after an interview on WhatsApp between the author and Global Voices on March 12, 2024. It is published here as part of a content-sharing agreement with Global Voices. 

When the Chelsea football club chose sides with Israel in its war on Gaza, it broke the heart of a young Gazan fan.

We support killing Abubaker and every Palestinian Chelsea fan in Gaza. 

This is how I interpreted my football club’s statement on Twitter following the break-out of the Israeli war on Gaza on October 7. After 12 years of love and devotion, I never expected my club to want to kill me.

When Chelsea released what I, and many others, believe to be a hypocritical statement a week after the war broke out, I reloaded the Twitter page twice to make sure it was real. The statement had no explicit or implicit condemnation of Israel’s murder of Palestinians and conveyed a clear message of support for Israel’s defense.

What hurts me more is the fact that no other club, except Chelsea, released a further statement after the Premier League and FA’s joint statement to stand neutrally between the two sides. It was disgusting and heartbreaking for Chelsea to support the genocide against me, in particular, and all Palestinians.

Here’s the joint statement:

And here’s what Chelsea felt it needed to add:

The statement completely failed to mention the huge loss of Palestinian lives in Gaza. I am outraged. Hurt more than ever. When I remember all the memories we spent together, the moments I cheered for Chelsea and my roars when they scored a goal!

Chelsea had been my team and life

Leaving the club this way brings me to heart-wrenching tears, especially since we celebrated the second UEFA Champions League trophy against Manchester City only two years ago.

Abubaker Abed showing his support for Chelsea FC, the club that was once his favorite. Photo by Abubaker Abed, used with permission.

Chelsea was not only my team; it was literally my life. My bedroom color is blue. My bed is blue and has Chelsea’s logo and letters, made of wood, on it. It didn’t stop there, I would only seek out blue clothes when shopping.

The Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip, lasting for more than 16 years, normally kills our joy by imposing strict restrictions on people’s lives in Gaza. But the club I have loved since 2011 brought happiness to so many of my days.

I was nine when I saw, on a black and white screen, Chelsea legend Didier Drogba’s iconic, legendary equalizer goal for the Champions League win in 2012 against Bayern Munich. I grew up watching “The Blues” reviving themselves after the huge disappointment in 2016 and clinching the Premier League title in 2017.

I even distributed chocolate pieces to celebrate the win. Another memorable moment from that time was when I burned my right thigh with hot tea out of excitement for Diego Costa’s goal against Everton in their league 5-0 home win in 2016/17.

Bidding farewell to my favorite player, Eden Hazard, in the 2019 Europa League Final triumph versus London rivals Arsenal was bittersweet. My love for Chelsea was always growing, especially after their stellar season in 2021 when they won their second European Champion Clubs’ Cup under manager Thomas Tuchel.

Even if I write a million words, no one will ever truly understand what Chelsea really meant to me. It’s a mix of complex and elegant love.

I was always advised not to give too much to the other side in a love relationship. I didn’t listen and followed my heart, giving more than I should have. Now, I am paying for it. I am totally baffled and regretful.

Even when Chelsea was having bad seasons, I stayed awake in the dark, cold nights with a poor laptop battery and unstable internet connection to watch them play.

Chelsea supports the genocide against me and my people

Abubaker Abed (right) with his friend Hamza, watching a Chelsea match at the Watan Tower in September 2023. Photo by Abubaker Abed, used with permission

According to the latest report from the Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor, 1.3 million Palestinians are displaced in Rafah, southern Gaza, which housed around 260,000 residents before Israel's attack. The latest statistics indicate that the Israeli aggression in Gaza has killed more than 31,184 people and injured over 72,889. Furthermore, it has completely destroyed more than 60 percent of the housing units in Gaza so far.

The last game I watched Chelsea was their 1-0 league home loss against Aston Villa last September. I didn’t watch it at home. Instead, I enjoyed going out to the Watan Tower in Gaza with one of my very best friends, Hamza. The tower is now a pile of rubble following a huge Israeli raid in the early days of the war on Gaza.

I don’t really know how Chelsea did it, but I think I was deceived by my love for the club. This is when treachery aches the most. The club I fell in love with for more than 12 years now turns out to have been wearing a fake mask this entire time.

Liverpool fans replaced the pain with love and solidarity  

Chelsea fans didn’t show us any kind of support. However, Liverpool is drawing me to sheer excitement and pure love following the enormous support by its fans for Palestine and Gaza over the last four months.

Last November, I messaged Ben from The Anfield Talk podcast, a devoted Liverpool fan from England, seeking his help in creating a gift for my youngest brother Ali, who is a massive Liverpool fan. Ben, along with the help of another Liverpool fan named Sajad, worked hard to give me the beautiful present I requested in my Twitter message. They presented me with a framed picture of Ali outside Anfield stadium in England.

The story became very popular, receiving coverage on BBC News and the Anfield Talk podcast. We were bombarded with messages of support and love from Liverpool fans. Honestly, what I have seen from Liverpool fans over the past four months has been more precious and honourable to me than what Chelsea has done to me over the past 12 years.

Ben and Sajad’s gift on November 7 helped us to forget about the war and grab a moment of joy. It put an unprecedented and unforgettable smile on Ali’s face.

Now, I am considering writing a thesis about the complex and tremendous love I had for Chelsea and how that changed in a moment of betrayal. However, I still can’t understand or come to terms with the fact that my soulmate club wanted to kill me.

Maybe if I were a Ukrainian with blue eyes and blonde hair, it would show me love or support? My heart still bleeds. I’m heartbroken.


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