CEREBRAL PALSY COE KICKS OFF TRAINING

The Chelsea Foundation's Cerebral Palsy Centre of Excellence held its first training session on Saturday for 23 players selected from three previous trials.

All the players were briefed on the season's comprehensive coaching programme which includes game awareness, technique development, balance, creativity and fitness.

'This is a great opportunity to develop from being a footballer with cerebral palsy (CP) into being an elite footballer with cerebral palsy,' said ex-Chelsea and England pan-disability player Sammy El Kashef.

'The level of coaching, the facilities and the group here make it enjoyable but crucially competitive for everyone,' he added.

The next few training sessions will be held in preparation for the side's first fixture at Lilleshall on Saturday 15 October. Now, Chelsea Foundation physiotherapists are working hard with the senior players to prepare them for a complex CP classification process.

To be eligible to play in CP sport competitions, a diagnosis of CP is not, in itself, sufficient. The impairment must be apparent without having to resort to the use of muscle testing equipment. Also, the impairment must impact on the performance of the chosen sport.

Unlike other pan-disability sports, CP football is a like-for-like game with matched ability players and dedicated coaching specifically targeted to those with CP.

As with most physical exercise, playing football increases stamina but it also strengthens legs and tones core muscles, all of which are essential exercise for people with CP. Physical benefits aside, young people can also learn invaluable social and team skills through playing football.

'In competitions, senior players play three, 30-minute games and the Under 16s play three, 20-minute games,' explained CP Centre of Excellence assistant coach Pam Chandler. 'This means we have to select the squad carefully and have plenty of squad rotation.'

Throughout the 20-week CP football programme, the players will participate in a series of regional league matches as well as friendly warm-up games.

Senior player Gareth Canning said: 'I am most looking forward to the great opportunities to develop football skills and confidence. Even experienced players are able to learn from a coaching style that appreciates disabilities.

'Everyone has goals in life and a project like this can provide a hand in reaching those goals, when so often society unintentionally excludes those affected by disabilities.'