By Tim Harrison
With more than 24,500 in Stamford Bridge for Chelsea Women’s opening league game of the season, the tension that usually characterises London derbies was replaced by a carnival feel.
When the Blues host Spurs in SW6 it can descend into ugliness, but last weekend’s women’s match was played in a different atmosphere - competitive, but respectful.
Building on the summer’s World Cup bounce, Chelsea unveiled their one new signing, Norwegian forward Guro Reiten, an instant fans favourite.
After Beth England had struck a fourth-minute piledriver with her left boot to put the Blues ahead, Reiten was unlucky not to double the lead in the second half, hitting the post with a strong header.
Families enjoyed a day out, a DJ got the crowd dancing at half-time and Chelsea mascots Stamford and Bridget were never busier, posing for selfies and making new friends.
Manager Emma Hayes said that her new signing had “fitted in seamlessly”. In a nice touch at the end, after the stadium had emptied, several of the Chelsea players made a beeline for a group of the club’s pioneer female footballers from the 1970s and 80s, who were guests of honour.
It all makes you wonder if the men’s game has become so tribal and so bitter that it’s lost touch with its original sporting roots. Next weekend’s visit to Wolves by Chelsea’s men is likely to be altogether more hostile.
The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and unless specifically stated are not necessarily those of Hammersmith & Fulham Council.
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