When we last spoke at length about Chelsea, Mr. Abramovich had no problems renewing his Tier 1 investment UK visa, Carlo Ancelotti reigned at the Bridge and Didier Drogba had just finished the season as top scorer. Chelsea joined a handful of premier league clubs to have achieved the league double of Premier League and FA Cup trophies.
Adekunle Akinrole, then a father of two, can only be described as a Chelsea superfan. Blue to the core, fanatical supporter of anything Chelsea, he was happy to chat about his favourite football club for hours. He enjoyed their ascendancy in the Premier League. So devoted is he to the London club that he that he named his two children, Lampard, and Chelsea.
The official names of Mr. Akinrole’s children are Chelsea, Lampard and John Terry: “He adds that he is saving up to go to Stamford Bridge and hopes to realise his dream within three years. He would love to watch a game there, soaking up the atmosphere and then to come back home. “I will not be complete until I have gone to Stamford Bridge.””
Fast forward to the present, Lampard I, his son’s namesake is managing his beloved Chelsea. It is difficult to imagine that a passion as deep as Adekunle’s would have in any way waned, but I decided an update on the state of the romance between Chelsea and the hardcore Nigerian loyalist is overdue.
As it turned out, I am even more fascinated by our conversation. His enthusiasm has grown in the ensuing years. I listen slack jawed as he tells me that Lampard II is now 15, Chelsea is 13 and wait for it, their little brother, born a few years afterwards has been named John Terry. Although, mum has little interest in football, the three are confirmed next generation Chelsea fans and Adekunle is delighted that his children have been infected with the Chelsea bug. “We are the Blue family, everything about us is Blue.”
Chelsea and her brothers keep dad up to date when work takes him away from home. Lampard will yell furiously when he thinks that Kepa, the Chelsea keeper, is messing up, or he will celebrate a goal with a quick text message to his dad. Dad makes sure that their cable TV subscription is paid well in time to watch Chelsea play and it is great family time for them.
Having been brought up in a typical Yoruba family, has it been a problem among family members who wonder why they have untraditional names? Adekunle’s response is unambiguous: everyone knows their names. “Actually, once you say Lampard or any of his siblings’ names in the area, anyone will immediately bring you to my house.” These are not their nicknames; he confirms that his children’s names are registered on their birth certificates.
Some fans get elaborate tattoos of club or player done, but to have three children named after your Chelsea heroes and living in faraway Lagos must surely be a first.
As the season ends, Adekunle fervently hopes that Chelsea will remain in the top four and is reasonably certain that they can overcome Wolves to secure that coveted Champions League spot.
As to his thoughts on Lampard I, Adekunle thinks he has done reasonably well this season and believes that next season will be even better. They are already playing attractive football and need to shore up their defence. Chelsea needs to buy a central defender to help tighten the defence and a player to play in the no 3 position. Antonio Rüdiger and Kurt Zouma need support.
He very much hopes that Willian will stay at least one more season, given his experience. The key position is that of the goalkeeper. Without a consistent one, the team will go nowhere. There are rumours that the signing of Atletico Madrid’s Jan Oblak is in the offing. This will be an incredibly positive one if it goes through.
This is a unique story. The conversation closes with Adekunle reasserting his love for Chelsea. “I just love that team so much. Me and Chelsea are one.”
He adds that he is saving up to go to Stamford Bridge and hopes to realise his dream within three years. He would love to watch a game there, soaking up the atmosphere and then to come back home. “I will not be complete until I have gone to Stamford Bridge.”
Lande is Executive Secretary, Renewable Energy Association of Nigeria and
is a member of the Segun Odegbami-anchored Sports Parliament.