Christmas is a time for traditions and smiles abounded in south-west London on Friday afternoon as the players continued two well-established Chelsea Football Club ones at this time of year.
Continuing a busy day after training hard for Monday’s meeting with Arsenal, the squad surprised children who will be spending the festive period at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital just a short distance down the Fulham Road from Stamford Bridge, and they also attended the annual Bridge Kids Christmas Party at the stadium.
At the hospital, the players handed out presents and Chelsea goody bags to the children, before posing for photographs and signing autographs.
The young patients were delighted to meet and chat to their heroes, with David Luiz in particular showing an uncanny knack of turning tears into smiles as he greeted the youngsters.
As the Brazilian explained, the significance of the visit is not lost on the players.
‘It’s a privilege to be here,’ David Luiz said.
‘If you do the right things and you come here with a good heart, it can make a difference to the lives of these children.
‘Not many people have a great life like us so we have to say thank you every day for that and try to make the people happy. We are nothing if we are not there to support them.
‘I really like to do things like this – it is why I was born and why I play football, so I can make others happy.’
Frances Clark, the clinical educator at the Apollo Children’s High Dependency Unit in the hospital, described that it is not just the patients who are boosted by the visit.
‘It’s a tremendous day, and one the staff look forward to as well,’ she said.
‘We specialise in children with high dependency needs in this ward. There is usually a ratio of one nurse to two patients here because they are quite sick.
‘We all get excited. Everyone likes it and the players are great when they come round, but we respect them as well. It just means a lot to the staff and the children.’
First stop before the hospital was the Bridge Kids party held in the West Stand at the ground, well-established in the Chelsea December calendar.
Over 200 junior members, plus 20 children who have had a difficult year and were guests of the Chelsea Foundation, were already enjoying party food and music when the players walked in to the familiar sound of ‘Blue is the Colour’.
John Terry took a microphone and spoke for everyone at the club when he thanked the children for coming and wished them all a Happy Christmas.
There was a birthday cake presented and ‘Happy Birthday’ sung to Ashley Cole, who is 33 today. He thanked the kids and all the players said Merry Christmas in their native tongue, as well as signing autographs and posing for photos.
‘It’s a real pleasure to come along today and meet all of our younger supporters,’ Demba Ba told the official Chelsea website.
‘They gave us a massive cheer when we walked in and it’s brilliant to see them all smiling and having such a good time. Christmas is a special time so it’s great we’ve been able to come here today.’