Shajeendran's love for Chelsea knows no bounds

The Absolute Mourinho: In conversation with Chelsea superfan Shajeendran 

Shajeendran K.K, or Shajee Paapan as he is fondly known, has been an avid Chelsea supporter for well over two decades now.

While he has donned several hats in the form of being a footballer to an analyst, the one constant throughout his life has been the love for Chelsea.

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For Shajee, it all started in the 90s, when he was first introduced to the west London club. Since no telecast was available in India at that point in time, his first taste of English football came through the popular BBC Radio.

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Shajee's father insisted that he tuned into BBC Radio to develop his knowledge around the language and keep track of current affairs. Little did his father know that Shajee would fall in love with the club, so much so that he even ended up naming one of his daughters after the Premier League giants!

In an exclusive chat with Sportskeeda, courtesy of Star Sports, Shajee reminisced about his journey as a Chelsea fan:

“I’ve just crossed the two-decade mark [as a Chelsea fan]. If my memory holds me right, I’ve been a Chelsea fan for about 23 years. It all started because of the BBC radio. My dad used to force me into reading newspapers and wanted me to listen to BBC radio from a very young age.
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"He wanted me to learn how the BBC framed their sentences and how they express certain type of news, be it political or current affairs.
“One day I was tuning in and the BBC had these different frequencies. One of them was BBC Radio 5 and it had live commentary on different football matches, be it the Premiership, the Championship or the lower divisions.
"I started listening to it and there was an update about Chelsea playing a must-win game at Coventry City in their fight to qualify for the European competition next season."

Chelsea failed to win the game, but that sparked curiosity in Shajee. He wanted to find out what this club was all about. He spent time researching the internet, spending as much as INR 175 for a small session at a local internet cafe back in the day.

Despite his best efforts, the fact that Chelsea were not as popular in the 90s compared to now meant that Shajee could not get accurate radio updates for all their games.

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But sooner rather than later, the game changer in Shajee's story arrived in the form of Star Sports exclusively bringing the Premier League to the Indian audience.

Initially, Shajee had to be patient because he had no clue about schedules or fixtures and it was almost always either Manchester United or Tottenham in action due to their popularity.

He recollects:

“At the time, they only broadcasted Monday night football. The unfortunate thing for me was that every week, it would be Manchester United or Tottenham playing on Monday because they were popular teams at that time.
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"Also, there is no schedule that we could follow. Unlike today, there were no websites that listed fixtures. So I used to wake up at midnight and check which teams were playing, if it was not Chelsea, I used to go back to sleep."

Eventually, Chelsea's fixtures were among those that were broadcast in India and Shajee became a regular follower. He took inspiration from the club as they were chasing European qualification despite not being the most popular in London, let alone England.

“I started following them because they were so inspiring. They were not a big club until Roman came, but I was still looking at a club that was ambitious and motivated me in my life also. My lifestyle at the time was very laid-back, very relaxed. It all rubbed on my skin."

Mourinho at Chelsea inspired Shajee more than anyone

However, the arrival of Jose Mourinho as manager in 2004 proved a major turning point in Shajee's journey as a Chelsea fan. Not only did the club experience a golden era, but Shajee, as a fan, developed a strong sense of belief about the club and an admiration for the man at the helm of affairs.

He explained:

“When Jose Mourinho arrived, it was a surprise. I looked up his career and I was inspired again. He came to Porto at a time when the club were tasting defeat consistently, the fans were agitated and then he worked his magic at Porto, winning the Champions League as well.
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"It was audacious of him to come and announce himself as the special one. He had the guts to come to the land of Sir Alex Ferguson’s football and call himself that.
“I thought that this guy will either ruin his life or ruin the club, but it was definitely an interesting time to be a fan."

Shajee credits Chelsea's growth as a global brand to the charisma and success Mourinho brought to Stamford Bridge.

"Today, Chelsea are a big brand in India, one of the best clubs in the world. Many would say that Roman is the inspiration. For me, Roman is just a lynchpin, I will not call him an inspiration. He bought the club and invested, it could have also gone wrong.
"Mourinho came in and changed everything, he is the inspiration for me. I can tell you that 80% of the Chelsea fans who started following the club after the start of the Roman era, followed the club due to Mourinho."
“Tuchel is a great manager with a lot of ability. But it’s clear that Mourinho is the finest manager in the club’s history."

Shajee, who has played alongside former India captain, the late VP Sathyan, had to cut short his football career due to a ligament injury in 1991. Now, he is the president of Hermanos FC, an amateur club based out of Kochi in Kerala. Shajee also runs his own YouTube talk show named "Think Football - Ask Shaji".

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His love for Chelsea can be best defined by the fact that he named his second daughter after the club. The superfan shed light on how it all unfolded when it came to naming his child:

“Unfortunately, I couldn’t name my first daughter as Chelsea. But then I told my wife, if our second child is a boy, I’ll name him as Drogba and if she’s a girl, we’ll call her Chelsea. Luckily, god was kind and we had a second girl child."

As Shajee closes in on 25 years as a Chelsea fan, we wish him the best and hope he inspires everyone around him, like the 'special one' himself.


Catch all the action from the upcoming season of the Premier League 2022-23 season, August 6th, 2022 onwards, LIVE AND EXCLUSIVE on STAR SPORTS SELECT AND DISNEY+ HOTSTAR

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Edited by
Nived Zenith
 
 
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