The first of two friendlies between Manchester City and Chelsea took on greater significance with the entertaining clash aiding in Oklahoma disaster relief.ST. LOUIS -- Moore, Okla., is about 500 miles from Busch Stadium. It is situated about 4,500 miles from Manchester and 4,600 miles from London.
Thursday, it became considerably closer to all of those places, when a supposed throw-away postseason friendly morphed into an impromptu charity match.
With Chelsea and Manchester City playing the first of two friendlies in the United States Thursday night, the come-from-behind 4-3 Man City victory took on a greater deal of importance than originally had been anticipated. The teams, along with the St. Louis Cardinals and event organizer Relevent Sports, each pledged to donate a dollar from every ticket sold, combining to give $135,000 to the Cardinals Care for Oklahoma Relief set up by the host Cardinals.
Teams and fans held a moment of silence prior to the game, and players donned black arm bands to pay tribute to the dozens killed, hundreds injured and thousands displaced from the tornado the struck the Oklahoma town on Monday. Outside the stadium gates, local law enforcement and firefighters collected more donations for Oklahoma Children's disaster relief.
On the field, both teams gathered to stand behind a banner that read "Together in support of Oklahoma" and had a team crest on each side. The global connection and response between major clubs overseas and tragic events in the United States is more pronounced than ever before, a sentiment that those who live thousands of miles and an ocean away can appreciate.
"Always we have a big responsibility," Chelsea striker Fernando Torres said. "We know everyone is watching us and is aware about what we are doing. The details we have for everything that happened in Oklahoma, I feel really sorry for everything. It's so sad. Even the small contribution, I think one dollar for every ticket, is going to help the families and everyone over there, so we only wanted to show respect."
Premier League teams paid tribute to the Boston Marathon bombing victims in the direct aftermath of the April tragedy by honoring them with moments of silence and wearing armbands, and for the second time in as many months, the support from overseas shone thorough.
"Whatever we can do we will do to help," Manchester City defender Micah Richards said. "The Premier League and the global recognition that the Premier League has, for us to support such a cause like that is amazing. There are tragedies all over the world, and the more that can be recognized, the better for the cause. The boys just wanted to go out there and enjoy it and show our support, and we did that today."
To both teams' credit, they put on an entertaining, open show, just four days after their respective Premier League campaigns closed and officially came up short of expectations and with new managerial hirings looming in the near future. Petr Cech's heroics in goal over the first 60 minutes stymied the threatening Sergio Aguero. Juan Mata was lively in a free-roaming role and helped set up a pair of goals.
Chelsea substitute goalkeeper Jamal Blackman, just 19, served up two goals in his first three minutes on the field before redeeming himself with a few highlight-reel saves. Fan favorite Edin Dzeko (St. Louis boasts a large Bosnian population) tallied his second goal of the night to pull City level, and Richards scored in stoppage time to seal the wild victory.
"In terms of the football and the entertainment for the people, it was fantastic to see so many people coming to the stadium to watch the game, and I think they had a pretty interesting evening," Cech said.
They say that these end-of-season friendlies mean nothing. Try telling that to the 10,259 that showed up for a Chelsea training session Wednesday night and the 48,263 who came out for Thursday's match. And more importantly, to the people of Moore, who came to the forefront of minds both here and abroad during the most trying of times.