by Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA, Philippines – English football club Chelsea is aiming to play a big role in the continued growth and development of football in the Philippines as they formally opened the Chelsea FC Soccer School yesterday at the Mall of Asia Music Hall.
PHOTO: James and Phil Younghusband participate in football drills during the official opening of the Chelsea FC Soccer School at the Mall of Asia Music Hall last May 15, 2012.
Chelsea partnered with Philippine Azkals mainstays Phil and James Younghusband to set up the soccer school, which opened to children of all ages and skill levels last April.
Since April 17, the children have been training at the EVIA football field in Las Pinas under the supervision of The Younghusband Football Academy (TYFA).
“You can see we’re committed in that we have a strong connection already with Phil and James,” said Ian Woodroffe, Chelsea FC’s International Development Manager.
“We really interact with a wide community. It’s really about being inclusive, it’s about giving opportunities to young people, and we’re really enthused by the passion that we saw,” Woodroffe added.
Adrian New, Chelsea FC’s Managing Director for the Asia Pacific region, said one of their ultimate goals is “to show every child in the Philippines the power of football.”
“It isn’t necessary that we wish to find players as good as James or Phil. We just want every child to experience football as something that brings you together with your friends, that allows you to stay fit,” New said.
Phil and James Younghusband graduated from the Chelsea Football Academy in England and suited up for the side’s youth team.
During yesterday’s press conference, dozens of children participated in the circuit set up by the Younghusband brothers, which challenged the young players to test their different football skills.
The children, who were part of the first batch of participants in the soccer school, were given the chance to show off what they have learned during the summer in front of the Younghusbands and the Chelsea officials.
According to the Younghusbands as well as Chelsea executives, this year’s summer football camp is only the beginning of a long-term partnership which is geared towards helping young players develop their skills.
“This is a milestone for Philippine football,” Phil said. “It’s a long term plan for football, and we’ve always said it won’t happen overnight. Having the partnership with Chelsea is a great thing for Philippine football, and we’re very happy.”
Woodroffe said that Chelsea is looking forward to developing new projects and new football programs in the country, as well as creating a permanent facility for the soccer school.
“Our strategy is that there as to be a permanent location for our school. The first one we created is in Hong Kong, the second one is in Kuala Lumpur, and the Philippines is the third… This is the first step, and hopefully we’ll be back here to announce exactly where the location will be,” New added.
Chelsea will not only be training football players; they also plan to train PE teachers and coaches to help them teach children about the game.
“We coach the coaches to make sure they understand the safety elements, the nutrition elements, the medical,” New said. “It’s more than just ‘kick a ball.’”
Giving, creating opportunities
The Younghusband brothers said the most important aspect of the Chelsea Soccer School is that it will give and create football opportunities for children as well as sustain the interest in Philippine football.
“Football has changed a lot, there’s been a lot more interest,” James noted. “There’s now a future in the sport.”
“We really want kids to ahve what we have, and that’s to play football for a living,” he added.
“Now that the awareness is there, the challenge is sustaining football,” Phil said. “That’s where we have the grassroots program and the local league. Success with the national team is always great, and it will be great if a future national team player will come from the Chelsea Soccer School.”
New, for his part, said spending an hour a week in the football field can turn out to be the “highlight of the week” for the children.
“For us, this is us giving back to the children in hopes that they can see football as something to give them fun,” he said. “We give children the proper skills to understand the fun they can have, and then try to allow them to develop.”
The creation of the soccer school in the Philippines is part of a greater Chelsea ambition, which involves building a soccer school in every country in Asia, according to New.
“We’re working in Jakarta, in Bangkok and in Seoul to open schools there as well in the next few months,” he said.
The Chelsea officials were unsure if they can bring members of the team to the Philippines, but they confirmed that coaches will be coming to the country to help run the soccer school.
“We’ll definitely have coaches from the UK, from Chelsea, who will work with the young players,” Woodroffe said.