Day one of the Chelsea Foundation’s inaugural Disability Showcase proved a huge success with more than 400 disabled footballers participating at our Cobham training ground today (Saturday).
The two-day event, which continues at Stamford Bridge on Sunday and highlights our commitment to the disability inclusion programme, which enables young people and adults with any disability to participate in regular, organised football matches and coaching sessions, began with pan-disability football for players aged under eight to 16.
Running simultaneously on the main 3G pitch at Cobham there was a Club Foot festival of football, which forms part of the celebrations for World Club Foot Day on June 3 and was organised with the support and assistance of Global Clubfoot Initiative and Steps, a national charity working for all those whose lives are affected by childhood lower limb conditions.
It was the turn of the adults in the afternoon with a walking football tournament and adult Cerebral Palsy football all taking place in the Cobham sun.
Among the onlookers was former Blue and club ambassador Eddie Newton, who was delighted to see Chelsea put on such a vast and inspiring event for disabled footballers.
He said: ‘It’s been a pleasure to be here and credit to the Club, Foundation and all the staff for organising this showcase.
‘It is easy to say these things should happen but in practice it is difficult to organise but we’ve managed to do that and there is a team representing Werder Bremen which shows the incredible reach the club and an event like this has.
‘To see all the children and adults involved and then to learn about the work that has gone in to making it happen has been a pleasure and makes me very proud.
‘All those taking part have had a great day, just watching the games you can see them give everything to win but just being here is an incredible experience and one they can cherish.’
The two-day showcase will see more than 850 participants involved across eight disability football tournaments with 80 teams from 30 different clubs confirmed to take part.
It is the biggest disabled football event of its kind in the UK and while all the participants were winners on a fun-filled day extra credit goes to those representing Seaford Town FC Disabilities Team and the Arsenal FC Foundation who were victorious in the under-12 and under 16 pan-disability competitions respectively.
There was also success for one of the teams in Blue with the Chelsea Hazard team lifting the under-12 cup.
George Godfrey, who was part of the team, said: ‘It has been amazing. To see this day and be part of it is something I will never forget and I am so grateful.
‘To be standing here with a cup at the end of the competition is even more special.’
Among those representing Chelsea on the day was a familiar face, James Middlehurst, who started playing for the Foundation after meeting Blues defender David Luiz during the club’s annual hospital visit to Chelsea & Westminster.
James said: ‘It has been a fun day and I managed to get an assist which was my favourite part of the day.
‘It is amazing to come here and get an opportunity like this and I love this place and team now. I met David Luiz at the hospital and since then I joined Chelsea so I can say I am player like him!’