Friday, May 08, 2009

Chelsea's search for an Asian Star

Three days of a ground-breaking new initiative by Chelsea drew to a close with three young Asian players joining the club this summer for trials at the Chelsea Academy. Search for an Asian Soccer Star is designed to give a much needed kick-start to greater Asian representation within the sport by uncovering potential future professional footballers from a so far under-represented community. Launched by Chief Executive Peter Kenyon on Saturday 2 May over 350 young players battled it out over three days of tests, matches and competitions and were joined by a host of Chelsea first team stars keen to lend their support including Nicolas Anelka, Petr Cech, Florent Malouda, Salomon Kalou and Deco. Assistant Manager Ray Wilkins also visited the scheme and led a couple of training sessions for the players. Petr Cech greeted the crowd before saying: “You can see the smiles on the faces and they deserve to have their chance to show people what they can do. It may only be a few kids that will get a trial, but this experience will give the other ones enough to join other clubs or add another dimension to their football. They have talent and passion about sport and it is good for there to be an opportunity in football.” Kalou praised the project: “It's a good initiative and I think it reflects how open Chelsea are. This has shown just how much these kids love to get involved in football and if Chelsea can be the first club to start this sort of project, then it's a great opportunity to other teams to follow suit.”“This reminds me when I was a kid, going through these kinds of tests. It's good opportunity for them to show they can be at Chelsea and become professional players. I remember when I had football trials when I was younger and I was happy and really excited. It's not every day you have this sort of opportunity and I hope the ones who are chosen will have a good career and become great players.” “They are living a dream to become professional footballers,’ added Nicolas Anelka as he looked on. ‘To play at the Chelsea training ground and to enjoy it is a good feeling. Football is international and we should see it everywhere. Chelsea had a good idea and hopefully one day someone here at the trials will become a professional footballer for Chelsea and maybe for England.” The timetable for the three days involved a series of individual tests developed by the Chelsea Academy to evaluate core skill levels and allowed trialists to be measured against boys already in the Academy. They were followed by coaching sessions with Academy staff and competitive matches in the afternoon. The eventual three winners were Jhai Singh Dhillon from Hitchin in the U14s, Jordan Sadhu from Ilford in the U13s and London’s Aameer Kstantin Murphy who won the U12 competition. Each will join the Academy for trials in August. Monday’s winner Jhai Singh Dhillon said “I’d tell anyone who is thinking about taking part to try it even if you don’t think you are the best player. It is good fun.” Invitations were also sent out to other clubs to send down coaches to Cobham. A number of a Premier and Football League scouts were in attendance alongside grass roots coaches from across the country. A change is already beginning according to Jas Jassal, who brought seven youngsters he works with to Cobham over the weekend, including his own son Amandeep for the Under 14s trials. Jassal is much-involved in running Concorde FC Juniors, providing grassroots football for kids from all backgrounds in west London. “Ten years ago when I was playing I couldn’t see an Asian football star coming through, but now in the next 10 years I can,” he said.“Chelsea is the first big club to promote grassroots football among the Asian community. It is important to find that talent and nurture it. This has been a great three days for the boys and for us to network.” Search for an Asian Star will return next year but Chelsea’s work encouraging Asian participation will continue throughout the summer as coaches and staff embark on a community tour providing free coaching for schools and Asian community groups in London and the South East. The club will also be hosting the Community Cup Final at Stamford Bridge in June.

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