For most of us, 2020 was 12 months of difficulties, complexities and bewilderment. As the year came to an end it is reasonable to say that most of us were glad to see the back of it. That, however cannot be said for BCOMS interns Keanu Rattray, Muhsin Mahmud and Anish Dogra who enjoyed a remarkable year thanks to the connections being established by BCOMS who have enabled these young developing sports journalists a glimpse into their futures by attending sporting events and football matches as part of the match day media. One highlight, in particular, were the trips to Stamford Bridge as all three interns were given the privilege to experience a few Chelsea games.
Over the course of the season so far, Keanu, Muhsin and Anish were able to attend 8 matches between them including high profile matches against Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool in the Premier League.
A mouthwatering clash between the Premier League Champions Liverpool and Chelsea in the Blues’ first home match of the season and BCOMS’ first game would be one that Muhsin would savour for the rest of his career. He was taken aback on how different the stadium felt without fans in and around the ground. Given the supporters have not been able to attend many matches this season so far, he understood how important the media’s role at games was in bringing the action closer to them. “as journalists it’s our duty to bridge that gap and bring further incite to the fans through digital journalism and reports”.
“It’s been very difficult for football and a shift of perspective where fans aren’t allowed in. Being a journalist it takes away some of the excitement, but you feel a lot closer to the match, with the crowd usually there, we are often a third party as the relationship is often between the supporters and players”. Whilst a lack of fans has relatively dampened the mood and atmosphere around stadiums, it has heightened the experience for the media in attendance as Muhsin represented. “The experience was mind blowing to have the opportunity to go to Stamford Bridge at a desperate time where football was cut off from fans it was something I will never forget.”
In a season where games come thick and fast with very quick turnarounds, Muhsin would be at the Bridge again a few days later for Chelsea’s EFL cup tie against Barnsley. In an outstanding win for the Blues where they demolished their counterparts 6-0, the BCOMS intern had the pleasure of speaking to Premier League and World Cup winner N’golo Kante. “I never used to play as a defensive player, in fact when I was younger I played on the wing. It was only when I came to England and played for Leicester they used to always say to me ‘tackle, tackle, tackle’, we were lower in the league so we had to defend, I’m not naturally defensive. I love to play in the centre of midfield. When people ask me about my game under Maurizio Sarri, I always say I had so much fun. Especially in the 3-4-3 formation.”
Including the result between Spurs and Chelsea, Keanu had other unforgettable matches such as the exhilarating 3-3 draw against Southampton and an emphatic 4-1 dismantling of Sheffield United.
Keanu’s experiences of two of the matches will be something he will never forget. “Southampton was my first game and my initial reaction of going to the ground was to see how great it was to have all the social distancing measures put in place by the club and the Premier League, I felt safe and comfortable in and around the stadium.” In a year where safety and security has been so paramount, it is brilliant to see Chelsea and The Premier League operating at its highest level without comprising anybody’s health.
The game itself will be one that Keanu won’t ever forget about as the Saints produced great spirit to come back twice and earn a point, a 92nd minute goal from Jannik Vestergaard saw Ralph Hasenhüttl’s side come away from Stamford Bridge with a thoroughly deserved point. A draw that is echoed by Keanu – “The game was fantastic, even though Southampton were 2-0 and 3-2 down they always looked in it as they have been throughout the season.” “Despite fans not being allowed back in the ground, it was a pleasure to be there to watch the game and speak to the journalists”.
The next match, arguably the biggest one of the season, was a London derby against Tottenham Hotspur. Immediately, the BCOMS intern noticed a big difference in media coverage between the two games, “at the Spurs game, it was far more restrictive due to the amount of high profile media there and broadcasters from around the world.” As Sky were covering the match, Keanu had the pleasure of talking to renowned reporter Geoff Shreeves. “Geoff was fantastic, we spoke to each other and he was aware of who BCOMS are.”
As BCOMS grows from strength to strength thanks to the incredible work being carried out by Leon, Ashanti and Drew it is extremely pleasing to see the organisation being recognised by someone such as Geoff and the praise he has on BCOMS’ attempts to diversify the sports media.
Despite the game not being as entertaining as many were expecting, as Jose Mourinho’s side came away with a nil-nil draw, the day will be one to remember for Keanu and one that epitomizes the effort of everyone at BCOMS to make something like this possible.
Chelsea and BCOMS’ partnership only continued to grow as Anish Dogra was allowed to continue the collaboration between the two organisations by attending last month’s matches against West Ham United and Aston Villa. This is what he had to say about the games. “Despite London being put into tier 3 thus preventing fans from attending the matches, it was still a pleasure to be there.”
“One of the very few advantages of not having fans in the ground is to gain an insight on the players’ behaviour such as their communication between each other and who the dominant voices are in the team.” “The match against West Ham was particularly intriguing, Edouard Mendy in the Chelsea goal was extremely vocal, as he marshalled his defence and gave encouragement to those in front of him. Similarly in the opposite side as West Ham United captain Mark Noble was in typical captain’s form as he attempted to dictate his team’s efforts throughout the match.” Whilst his attempts were futile as The Irons succumbed to a 3-0 loss against their London rivals it was still fascinating to hear him from the very first minute to the last.
Throughout these experiences, Anish, Muhsin and Keanu showcased why it is so important to have greater diversity amongst the media, particularly those from BAME backgrounds. In an ever changing environment, and given all the political movements that has happened over the past 12 months, in particular the Black Lives Matter preaches, it is extremely pleasing to see the Premier League and its players support this statement and for a massive club such as Chelsea to promote diversity and BAME inclusion within the media.
A disappointing year for many, but not for Muhsin Mahmud, Keanu Rattray and Anish Dogra who have been fortunate to experience some aspects of the better side within these past twelve months. With BCOMS’ partnership growing ever stronger with Chelsea and with The FA, as well as the European Championships to come, 2021 looks set to be an even better year filled with more opportunities for the BCOMS interns as well as the rest of cohort with the face of the media well and truly changing for the better.