Swaggarlicious head coach Manisha Tailor mentored youngster Soul Kara, who was provided with a unique opportunity of visiting Chelsea’s Cobham training ground for their Asian Star initiative.
This was one of Soul’s one-to-one sessions with Manisha at the eighth instalment of the event that saw more than 250 young Asian players take part.
The youngsters took part in a day of activities designed to increase Asian participation in all levels of the game. The winners in each age group are invited to join the Chelsea Foundation's Football Development Centres.
Participants competing in under-9s to under-12s age groups led by Chelsea Foundation coaches were judged on a series of matches and tests specifically designed and used by the Chelsea Academy to examine speed, skill and ability
Charan Ahira, Abdullah Javaid, Rico Toor and Roshan Hirani were crowned champions in the under-12, under-11, under-10 and under-9 categories respectively. Prizes were presented by former Chelsea goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini.
The Italian was joined by former Asian Star winners Sam Khan, Adam Ahmed and Qasim Khan, who currently play in the academies at Nottingham Forest, Coventry City and Cambridge United respectively.
Under-12 winner Charan Hirani, said: ‘It was amazing to win. My favourite player is Eden Hazard so to play here like him was a dream.
Under-11 winner Abdullah Javaid, who won the competition in 2015 as well, added: ‘I’ve won this twice in a row now. There was more pressure this time but a good experience to pass on.
Under-10 winner Rico Toor said: ‘I found it quite challenging but it was a fun and exciting experience. Playing in this event has helped me gain more confidence.
Under-9 Roshan Hirani added: ‘I found it difficult but managed to score 11 goals and learnt a lot from the coaches. I am delighted to have won.’
There were further awards handed out to Ashton Prescott, Suryaksh Tewatia, Arjun Thandi and Romir Mann in the under-12, under-11, under-10 and under-9 categories respectively after all four impressed the coaches during the testing phase of the day.
However the day wasn't all about the children as Cobham also hosted a presentation by the The Football Association Equality Department about their work developing opportunities for Asian players at all levels including coaching.
Also in attendance to assist coaches were volunteers from St Mary’s University and pupils that attend the Chelsea Foundation programme at Merrist Wood College.
Cudicini, who was voted the club’s player of the year in 2002, and is now a Chelsea FC ambassador, was making his first appearance at Asian Star and was hugely impressed with both the day and the talent on show.
He said: ‘It is a pleasure be here to see such a fantastic event. It is great for the kids and their families to visit and play at Cobham, just a few yards away from where the first-team play.
"Obviously they have a chance to impress and maybe go on and play in a professional academy but more importantly it is about so many having the opportunity to do something special.
"The Chelsea Foundation, and whole club, do a great job at supporting and promoting these events and are always at the forefront of new ideas and something like this for kids of an Asian background is setting the standard for others.’
Following the day in Surrey, Soul said: ”I have never seen Chelsea's training ground before. From what I saw today, Chelsea's training ground is very big and the pitches and equipment they have are great.
"Today I enjoyed how the FA staff had presented a PowerPoint on how the FA have changed rules and their targets about young asian players in football.I also enjoyed learning different training techniques and seeing how the chelsea training staff trained the asian stars.
"I learnt different drills and ways to go about teaching and helping younger children.During the presentation I learnt how the FA are changing their targets on how they want more Asian players to play football and become professional. Coming to Cobham was a great experience for me as I have also learnt a lot.”
Manisha, a keen supporter of this project, said: "I have been supporting the work of Simon Taylor and the Chelsea Foundation for a number of years now and have been fortunate enough to have seen the growth of it's Asian Star initiative.
"I think as a whole the project provides young people with the opportunity to participate in various footballing activities at a competitive level but within a safe and engaging environment led by Chelsea FC coaching staff. Additionally, it gives hopefuls from Asian heritage, as well as their friends and family, the chance to visit Chelsea FC's training ground, who are often left in awe.
"This year I attended with a young 15 year old boy that I am mentoring through the Swaggarlicious FC 'On The Road' initiative and had given him specific tasks to complete through the day.
"I feel in a privileged position to provide not only footballing opportunities, but enriching learning experiences to young people as a teacher, where-ever possible. It always proves to be a brilliant day out and I am extremely excited to attend this years event with my mentee"
Asian Star is the first scheme of its kind undertaken by a professional football club. It is designed to give a much-needed boost to Asian participation at all levels of the game.
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To find out more about Swaggarlicious visit our website www.Swaggarlicious.com and to to find out about the mentoring scheme please email: firstname.lastname@example.org