ESSIEN AND BENAYOUN LAUNCH DIGICEL LINK-UP

The final Chelsea Foundation coaching event of the US tour was a significant one when at the Florida International University sports ground, a new partnership was launched.

Chelsea will be working closely with Digicel at their established Kick Start clinics for aspiring young footballers across eight countries in the Caribbean, Central America and this part of the United States.

Thousands will be involved initially, with the 30 best children from each country training in the hope of being one of the top four chosen to go to the Digicel Academy in Barbados, representing their country.

During the two-week Digicel Academy, the top 32 boys from across the region will have the chance to train under coaches from Chelsea.

During the launch in Miami, local children not only benefited from such schooling but were also able to play football with Yossi Benayoun and Michael Essien.

'This is important but it is also fun for us,' said Benayoun at the end of the session.

'I like to work with kids and if I can come and help with training and give a little bit back then it is good.

'People love football everywhere in the world and you can affect a lot of other things if you try to help kids.'

'We are very excited about partnering with Chelsea,' said Ken Mason, group business development director of Digicel.

'We are getting together some of the best youngsters in the communities and they are going to be coached by a good son of Jamaica, John Barnes, and we are going to narrow it down and bring in the Chelsea experts, and the kids will have the privilege and opportunity of being trained by some of the top trainers in the world.

'What we have seen with the Kick Start programme is some professional behaviour and attitudes being taken from this programme and brought back into the communities in the Caribbean and Central America and that is of tremendous value.'

Graeme Le Saux, Chelsea ambassador, coached and gave a speech at the event and he can see the benefit of getting out and about to offer such schemes in smaller communities or countries.

'Growing up on an island, there were barriers that I had to finding a pathway to succeed,' he said, 'and it is the same for anyone who wants to do something off-island. There has to be a connection between you and where you want to get to and if that is not made, most people give up.

'You don't want to be put off by the fact you haven't got an opportunity, there is nothing worse in any walk of life than young people who don't have the opportunity to fulfil their talent.

'From my point of view it has been another fantastic tour,' he added.

'I learnt a lot last year in Asia and out here it is a different environment but the club continues to show our commitment over the longer term.'

The final word on the Foundation's involvement in the tour and the Digicel partnership fell to Ian Woodroffe, the Foundation's international development manager.

'It is exciting to be working with so many different countries across the Caribbean region. They won't have to travel, we will go to them. We are looking forward to it over the next two months.

'It has been a fantastic opportunity for us to be part of the tour programme again. You can't measure the impact we feel we have working with all these different young people from different locations. A high for us has been building the relationship with the Super Clubs. We have come out to those several times and we are really starting to make a positive impact now, and we will continue to develop that relationship further.'