Day one of the Chelsea Foundation’s now annual Disability Showcase proved a huge success with more than 500 disabled footballers strutting their stuff 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 3G pitch at Cobham there was a Club Foot festival of football, for players aged three to 15 which has been organised with the support and assistance of Global Clubfoot Initiative, Steps, a national charity working for all those whose lives are affected by childhood lower limb conditions and Chelsea & Westminster Hospital.
Among the onlookers was former Blue and club ambassador Carlo Cudicini, who was delighted to see Chelsea put on such a vast and inspiring event for disabled footballers.
‘It has been great to meet these unbelievable people,’ said Cudicini. ‘I’ve been busy meeting the parents and kids and they are all enjoying themselves at this fantastic event.
‘This is a very important area of work for the club and the Foundation and all those involved with organising it deserve huge credit.
‘It is the biggest event of its kind in the UK but it is bigger than just here with teams coming from Europe to play and enjoy this amazing event.
‘Football is special because all you need is a ball and anyone can play, events like today just highlight the fact that football is for everyone and is a game we can all enjoy. These kids have all been through a lot in their lives so to see them running around and enjoying themselves is special.’
Also in attendance to show their support for our work in the community were MP for Esher and Walton Dominic Raab (pictured below) and the Mayor of Elmbridge, Mary Sheldon.
Mr Raab said: ‘It’s a fantastic event with young children all the way to adults getting to play. To give these young disabled players the chance to showcase their talent is brilliant to see and very inspiring.
‘I had a chat with one of the mums, who was telling us when her boy was born he needed 24-hour care and they never thought they’d see the day when he was smiling and running around on a football pitch and that is what it is all about.
‘It is amazing to see Chelsea doing this and as the MP for the area where the training ground is I am very proud that they are showcasing the huge potential of disabled children in sport.
‘It is also great to see Chelsea bringing so many different people and organisations together, it really is inspirational. Chelsea have a big training ground but it remains a huge achievement to bring all these people together and ensure it runs like clockwork.’
In total, more than 700 participants are expected to be involved over the weekend in what is the biggest disabled football event of its kind in the UK. This will incorporate six disability football tournaments with 72 teams from a host of different clubs taking part.