Bridge success for Asian Star event

The ninth instalment of Chelsea’s Asian Star initiative proved a huge success today (Saturday) as more than 350 young Asian players descended on Stamford Bridge to take part.

Having been staged at our Cobham training ground for the past eight years, the pioneering initiative made its Stamford Bridge debut with 100s of parents watching from the stands as the players performed on the hallowed turf.

The youngsters took part in a day of activities designed to increase Asian participation in all levels of the game. The winners in each age group are invited to join the Chelsea Foundation's Football Development Centres.

Participants competing in age groups ranging from under-9s to under-12s were led by Chelsea Foundation coaches and judged on a series of matches and tests specifically designed and used by the Chelsea Academy to examine speed, skill and ability. 

Lewis Dang, Jai Shiv Sharma, Nathan Devshi and Ubaidah Rahman, were crowned champions in the under-12, under-11, under-10 and under-9 categories respectively.

Prizes were presented by former Chelsea striker Tore Andre Flo, who now coaches in the Academy, Zesh Rehman, the first British Asian to play in the Premier League, and former Asian Star winners Sam Khan and Adam Ahmed who currently play in the academies at Nottingham Forest and Coventry City respectively.

Under-12 winner Lewis Dang said: ‘I am very proud to have won. To play here at Stamford Bridge was fantastic and to win was even better! It has been a great day.’

Under-11 winner Jai Shiv Sharma  added: ‘I am ecstatic.  I never thought I would win this.  I did everything to try and impress and was passing, tackling and shooting, I am very happy.’

Under-10 winner Nathan Devsht said: ‘My favourite part of the day was the games. I haven’t played against new people very often so it was a new experience and in the second game I scored a hat-trick!’

Under-9 Ubaidah Rahman added: ‘I am very proud to win. I didn’t expect it but it was a great day and after starting the event quite nervous I played well.’

There were further awards handed out to Jai Samra, Tariq Al Sadi, Shaan Virk and Ruban Khan in the under-12, under-11, under-10 and under-9 categories respectively after all four impressed the coaches during the testing phase of the day.

However the day wasn't all about the children as Stamford Bridge also worked closely with the Football Association and London FA, with workshops and useful information available to parents. Head of all talent ID for England, Richard Allen, was also in attendance to cast an eye over the youngsters.

The Premier League trophy also made an appearance with players and parents getting the chance to pose for photographs.

Also in attendance, to assist our coaches, were volunteers from St Mary’s University and pupils who attend the Chelsea Foundation programme at Merrist Wood College.

Flo, who is now a Chelsea ambassador, was making his third appearance at Asian Star and was delighted to see the event take place at Stamford Bridge.

He said: ‘It is a fantastic event run by the Chelsea Foundation and most importantly a great opportunity for these young children.

‘There are lots of different nationalities in the Premier League and England in general but not many from the Asian community and we hope events like this will start to change that process.

‘Of course we would love to find a star player but the main thing is the kids have fun and having spent some time with them there is no doubt they are.

‘I have been twice before and both times that was at Cobham so to have the event here at the home of the champions adds something special and it is a day none of the players will forget.’

Asian Star is the first scheme of its kind undertaken by a professional football club. It is designed to give a much-needed boost to Asian participation at all levels of the game.