'It's cool': Chelsea and Wrexham fans descend on the Triangle

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Wednesday, July 19, 2023
Fans pumped for international soccer exhibition
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Fans traveled from near and far for the match between soccer giant Chelsea and tiny but feisty Wrexham.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WTVD) -- Chapel Hill is used to big sporting events, but this one will put the town on the global map as the UK's Chelsea FC and Wrexham AFC face off in a friendly at Kenan Stadium.

WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary played host to open practice sessions for both teams Tuesday night.

"I've always wanted to go see European stars," said Godson Amaechi, who lives in Raleigh. "It's been too far, but I guess we'll have some here today. My son has gotten into it."

Tuesday was the perfect opportunity for Amaechi to take his 7-year-old son Ben and 4-year-old daughter Nadia and much easier to get from Raleigh to Cary rather than even trekking over to Chapel Hill.

Members of the NC Courage Academy got to watch some international stars up close and personal as well, including 15-year-old Olivia Best and 16-year-old Syri Davis

"Being able to drive 10 minutes from my house to watch them here is kind of crazy," Olivia said. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

Both said they have more than a vested interest in what they're seeing on the practice field and hoping they can take some of that back to their own training.

"It's cool to witness pro players and top-level athletes doing things that we can back and implement," Syri said.

RELATED: Chelsea vs Wrexham at UNC's Kenan Stadium: What to know before you arrive

Soccer fever traveled from the merchandise tents in Cary to Franklin Street in Chapel Hill where flags and banners hung from businesses.

We even spotted mascot cutouts inside the Graduate Hotel.

"We went last year to Charlotte, and anytime they come to America, we try and make a trip out of it," said Joe Mclemore, who drove down with his wife from Virginia Beach to see Chelsea play in the preseason match. "I wanted to go do a honeymoon at Stamford Bridge but the other half wasn't having it."

Bryan Teague based his trip to North Carolina around the match.

He lives in Los Angeles and decided to visit his sister-in-law in Fayetteville. He attended Chelsea's matches in Pasadena, California, and last year in Las Vegas.

"It definitely feels like there's a lot more excitement," Teague said. "I grew up playing soccer, but this is the nicest stadium I've been to -- at least we didn't have this when I was growing up."