Having been at Chelsea Football Club from a young age, both Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Hannah Blundell know what it takes to make it to the highest level.
Loftus-Cheek, who first joined the club at seven years old, and Blundell, who has played for Chelsea Women for nine years, surprised participants at a Chelsea Foundation girls’ football tournament at Cobham on Tuesday afternoon where more than 60 females aged 13 to 16 took part in the event.
As part of our International Women’s Day (Friday) celebrations and continued support of global charity partner Plan International, Loftus-Cheek, 23, and Blundell, 24, both got involved in the action before taking part in a Q&A session in which both players were asked about their experiences during their football careers and passed on advice to the female players.
Jorginho also joined in the action later and together with Blundell and Loftus-Cheek, he posed for photographs and signed autographs for the female participants.
Loftus-Cheek said: ‘We’ve been joining in with the girls during their tournament – I missed a penalty – but the less said about that the better!
‘I joined in a game and I couldn’t get in the game! I was just running about, asking them to pass to me, but I just couldn’t get in the game.
‘It’s been good to get involved in the day and see the girls. It’s really important to do these type of things because I remember when I was a kid I didn’t get these type of opportunities.
‘It’s important for us, as role models, to have an impact on the younger generation.
He added: ‘The women’s game has definitely grown, I’ve seen more coverage of it on the TV and you can see the level of the game has improved.
‘We’ve also got the Women’s World Cup coming up this year so it’ll be good to see the coverage of that and hopefully it keeps on growing.
Blundell, who has won the double twice in the blue of Chelsea, said: ‘I’ve come down to watch the girls play some football matches, I’ve had a go at the penalty shoot-out and it’s been really good to get involved.
‘It’s great to think how far the women’s game has come to think I can be seen as a role model to these players.
‘It’s up to myself and my team-mates to do what we can - attend these great events that the Chelsea Foundation put on and continue to inspire young girls to believe that they can play football and if they want to, they can go on to achieve big things in the women’s game.’
Chelsea Foundation football development officer Steve Shipp said: ‘It’s been a real unique experience. A lot of them aren’t footballers, they haven’t really kicked a football before so for them to come in and see this has been a real eye-opening experience.
‘They’ve had a great insight to what a training ground looks like, what goes on at a training ground and they’ve got to experience a little bit of what it’s like to be a footballer and also speak to the footballers themselves to get a real insight to what goes on behind the scenes so they’ve had a great day.
‘These type of events are massive. It’s a great opportunity for us to open up the training ground to local schools and promote the great work that goes on at the club to support women and girls football. These events are what makes the Foundation what it is.’
Plan International became Chelsea global charity partner in 2015, and together we are working to change the lives of children in Asia, Africa and South America by using football to help educate young people, especially girls – making sure they stay in school long, marry later, and have the chance to fulfil their potential.