BLUES MEET BANGKOK KIDS
Gary Cahill, Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Josh McEachran joined Chelsea Foundation coaches at our Soccer School in Bangkok on Monday afternoon, helping deliver a coaching clinic to almost 50 local children.
The four players took time out on our Here to Play, Here to Stay tour to visit the project, which is one of several we have opened in Asia since 2011 to deliver expert grass roots coaching across the region, with each hosting hundreds of children each week, who may not otherwise have access to football.
The Bangkok school is an impressive facility, with three seven-a-side sized pitches, all with modern 3G surfaces, and the local children, who were invited through charities linked to Singha, were quick to demonstrate their ability to the players who in turn were happy to provide a few flicks and tricks of their own.
'It was my first time doing anything like that and it was good, I had a lot of fun and I think the kids had fun as well,' said Lukaku afterwards. 'It is something that you want to do and for me as a kid, I never had the opportunity to do things like that - I was always at school or helping my mum out.
'The kids' days are made when they see their idols coming from England and giving them training and little bits of advice, and when they apply it they see a big difference and those kids are very happy.
'The facility was very impressive and I was speaking with Kevin [De Bruyne] about it and in Belgium we should have a pitch like it to play inside with our mates, because we have the same thing but it is smaller - so the facilities are great and I think the kids can develop a lot of technical qualities on those pitches because the surface is perfect, they have good coaches, good balls and equipment to train with.'
Cahill was keen to point out the importance of the club's work when not in match action. 'It's great to do these kinds of schemes and it's great to spend time with the kids when we are here, but also when we leave there is a legacy that lives on for the rest of the season,' the defender said. 'These kids can come and get some good coaching and improve their football, and that's the main thing.'
Foundation coach Dave Monk, who is out in Asia, explained more about the scheme.
'It is a fantastic facility, we see it as our hub - our home away from home here in Thailand,' he said. 'We have been running a coach education course here all week for coaches across Asia who are part of the extended family of Chelsea and the Blue Pitch here in Thailand.
'This week, prior to the first team arriving we had teams from Singapore, the Philippines, Hong Kong and also educating the local Thai children as well.
'We have really been working hard to make sure we draw attention to the fact we are here to stay and it is about leaving a legacy, it is about developing football, not only the players but also the coaches so the coaches can then impart our knowledge we pass on to them to the thousands of children they coach every week.
'There has been a lot of excitement about this training session because we have been here a week prior to it. We have seen the build up to it and we understand the passion here for the team from the Thai people, they support Chelsea a lot and from the tour two years ago I have definitely seen it increase, and now having a facility to base all our activities at is a wonderful positive.'
You can find out more about Chelsea FC soccer schools and Blue Pitches at www.chelseafc.com/foundation