COBHAM HOSTS JAPANESE JUNIOR FC

Aspiring Japanese footballers visited Cobham this week to watch training and meet the first team as part of a programme run by the Chelsea Foundation.

The club's training ground hosted 18 players of all ages, ranging from Under 5s to Under 17s, from the Acton-based London Japanese Junior Football Club, which was founded in 1993.

The trip was part of a scheme which began in 2010 and sees the Chelsea Foundation provide coaching to the side with the aim of improving the team's match performances.

Three Chelsea Foundation coaches provide a two-hour session per week, over 43 weeks of the year, to the Japanese Junior Football Club and have done so for the past two years. Their hard work during training sessions has reaped rewards, proven by the side's victorious results, but it's not all about winning games.

Performance may have improved immensely but the club has also seen a dramatic change in their players' attitudes since the Chelsea Foundation have been involved with the coaching programme.

Each season, rewards for the players' commitment not only materialise in results and attitude, they also get to attend a Barclays Premier League game at Stamford Bridge and receive signed merchandise for fund-raising auctions. On top of that, they also get to visit the training ground.

'We used to be a fun club which just played a bit of football but when the Chelsea Foundation got involved they began coaching and brought discipline into the side, although everyone was still having fun,' explained Japanese Junior manager Hideyuki Miyahara.

'Now they are learning every week and it's not just kicking a football anymore. Now we play three times a week and altogether there are over 120 children involved with the club.

'And because the Chelsea Foundation coaches come to our football club, everyone loves Chelsea. So when these visits are organised by the Chelsea Foundation, the children really enjoy it and are always really excited about coming.

'Now they will go back to the football club and tell the other players about their trip and what they saw. Hopefully it will inspire them all to improve their skills,' added Miyahara.