FORMER BLUES COACHING FOR THE FUTURE
The official Chelsea website talks to former Chelsea reserve players James and Phil Younghusband who now run the club's soccer school in the Philippines…
Today's game in Bangkok against the Singha All-Stars is the not the first match action of the 2013 Here to Play Here to Stay tour. That took place a day earlier across the city at Chelsea's Blue Pitch soccer school facility.
A morning of coaching there was followed by a football festival with teams of 10- to 12-year-olds competing against each other in a multitude of short-duration games. What made this special was that for the first time the Chelsea Foundation had flown players in from other parts of Asia, and also the identity of two of the coaches looking after a group of players from the Philippines.
James and Phil Younghusband will be familiar to anyone who watched Chelsea youth and reserve team football a few years ago.
Natives of Surrey, they joined the Chelsea Academy at the age of 10 and progressed as far as our second string. James, who played on the right side of defence or midfield, left in 2006 while Phil, a forward who was youth team top scorer in 2004/05, stayed at Chelsea for a further two years and during that time became a Philippines international, qualifying through his mother's nationality. James achieved that status too and they have become star footballers in that country.
The brothers have now taken their involvement further, into coaching children, and here in Bangkok they told the story to the official Chelsea website.
'We took a break from playing for the national side in 2008 but I wanted to be in the Philippines and needed to earn an income,' says Phil (pictured above right).
'I didn't want to leave football so I started coaching kids and I met a few well-connected people and was able to start a coaching programme. Then James followed over and we ran the programme together and it has gone on from there.
'We started from scratch with money we had saved up which we invested in equipment and facilities, and it ended up becoming a business for us so the Younghusband name became known as coaches and not just players.
James (pictured above left) adds: 'After a two-year break from the national team we realised we needed to start playing again to get people more interested in football in the Philippines.'
During that second spell they helped the national team to an all-time-best semi-final appearance in the 2012 Suzuki Cup - South-East Asia's biennial national championship.
'With the success in the Suzuki Cup there was a lot of media attention on football and the national team, and parents and kids wanted to get involved and the enthusiasm is a lot higher,' says Phil.
'More sponsors became interested in the sport,' says James, 'and our soccer school got sponsors so we were able to develop more facilities.'
The same year the school became the third in Asia after Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur to formally come under the Chelsea FC umbrella.
'We owe a lot to Chelsea, they have been a big part of our football development since we were kids and to still have the relationship means a lot to us,' acknowledges Phil.
'We are in constant communication with the club and we are able to bring Chelsea coaches in, and send our coaches out for training, and we are able to bring the kids out on trips like this one to Bangkok. It is an experience that no one in the Philippines has really had before.'
After the festival, the soccer school kids attended Tuesday evening's first team training session and were able to collect autographs. Tonight they will watch the game.
The Younghusband brothers are still in touch with staff in the Chelsea Academy who remain from their time there, and they have visited Cobham with one of their coaches.
'Whenever we watch the Premier League we see a lot of the Chelsea staff still there,' says James. 'And people like Brendan Rodgers at Liverpool, and it is cool to watch some of the Chelsea players still doing well and being able to say we worked with them.'
Also taking part in Tuesday's festival at the Bangkok Blue Pitch were teams from the Chelsea soccer school in Hong Kong, the Thai one based in Bangkok, some players from local schools plus teams entered by our global charity partner Right To Play.
'Those children come from one of our model schools in Bangkok where there is a high level of Right To Play activities,' says the charity's manager in Thailand, Jacob Murray.
'Students are rewarded for their academic performance by representing their school and Right To Play here.'
Ian Woodroffe, the Chelsea Foundation's international development manager says: 'This is the first event of this type that we have done and we have called it a festival because the results aren't so important, it is more about engaging different cultures.
'We have been able to bring the parents over to this event and in Kuala Lumpur we will have a similar festival for 12- to 14-year-olds.
'The kids win some games and they lose some and hopefully they enjoy the experience.'