Chelsea – legends Michael Essien and Ashley Cole try to understand American – Football.
Ashley Cole and Michael Essien know each other inside-and-out. The two spent their primes together at Chelsea, where they were part of a Premier League champion, a UEFA Champions League Final victory and four FA Cup title teams.
But the two can’t seem to figure out American football. Cole, 36, now plays for the LA Galaxy of MLS, and Essien, 34, plays for Persib Bandung of Liga 1 in Indonesia. With the Premier League trophy touring New York City this week — Chelsea won it in 2016-17 — the club brought its two former stars to the Big Apple. On Saturday, Cole and Essien watched Chelsea in NYC with local fans. On Sunday at MetLife Stadium, they were guests of the New York Jets and watched a different type of football.
“Obviously, being in America, playing for the last couple of years, I kind of got to know certain bits of it and who the best players are, but rule wise, I’m out,” Cole says with a laugh. “I can’t tell you. But it was fascinating to see how big these guys are, how mobile they are for big guys.”
Cole and Essien were on the field during warm-ups before watching the game from a suite, where they met Knicks forward/centre Kyle O’Quinn. Essien, a rugged midfielder on the field and gentleman off the field, took note of the grind for NFL players.
“It was brilliant,” Essien says. “It was my first time watching live. Even though I didn’t understand the rules, I kind of enjoyed it. It’s very physical, which is good, I liked it.
“They were bumping into each other, tackling each other. It was awesome.”
Cole, who was also at his first NFL game, is listed at 5-9 and 146 pounds — an absolute physical liability at any position other than kicker and punter. He built his stardom on speed and wit from his left back position. While his body would have difficulty making the transition to American football, he notes the opposite is also true.
“I don’t want to disrespect them too much,” he says. “I think for some of them it would be hard. I think soccer is a little bit more agile. Of course, you don’t wear the big pads, but like I said, them big guys can run. So, you think the bigger, the slower they are. No, they can definitely catch me anyways.”
In a different life, Marshawn Lynch is attempting to barrel Essien over while dribbling a soccer ball to the net. Or Cole is running a route around Aqib Talib.
ThePostGame caught up with Cole and Essien at Frederick Douglass Academy on Tuesday in New York City, where representatives from Chelsea led a clinic with players from the FC Harlem youth program. Cole and Essien helped dedicate a new FC Harlem field,which will open in summer/fall 2018, below Riverside State Park.