Also attending were Nathan Ake, Jamal Blackman, Andreas Christensen and Ruben Loftus-Cheek, at the facility in west Harlem visited by former Blue Graeme Le Saux on our tour last summer.
The pitch, an artificial surface suitable for small-sided games which is located near the Hudson River and below one of this part of Manhattan’s iconic, raised railway lines, was converted from a parking lot, and is one of two FC Harlem use. Their executive director Irv Smalls was delighted to welcome Chelsea stars to the coaching clinic.
‘Today was an amazing day with Chelsea Football Club here,’ he said. ‘We wanted to see how we could use football to have a positive effect on the community.
‘Having a club like Chelsea here, having the players and the coaches, is really important because it helps the children feel a part of something big.
‘This is our training field to develop kids, not just on the field but off it as well. We do enrichment programmes which focus on academic support, leadership skills, career development and all-round healthy living.
‘Having a top club like Chelsea come here and showing those values helps cement things in the minds of the children.’
Cech, who like his team-mates spent time playing games and signing autographs with the 25 kids, spoke of his pride to be involved in the visit.
‘We are all delighted to come and meet kids at a fantastic project like this,’ he said. ‘The club takes very serious our work in the community and it is an important part of when we travel to different parts of the world. FC Harlem helps bring the spirit of football into this community which is great.’
Originally founded in 1990 as Harlem Youth Soccer Association (HYSA), the FC Harlem program offers kids a safe place to play the beautiful game, right in the heart of Harlem. More than 1,000 children participate annually in after-school soccer programmes, beginner clinics and competitive travel teams.
Chelsea continues to build upon our ‘Here to Play, Here to Stay’ ethos by leaving lasting legacies in places we visit.
All year round we are active in the US via our Super Clubs programmes in Baltimore, Phoenix, Dallas and Atlanta, and we look forward to continuing our work with FC Harlem in New York.