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‘Region stands to benefit’

Justin Marville in Miami

‘Region stands to benefit’

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The importance of the opportunities provided by Chelsea’s presence in the region isn’t lost on the Blues.
Least of all Graeme Le Saux.
The club manager and former first-team player believes Caribbean football will benefit most from the high-level coaching Chelsea can offer after the European champions signed on for a three-year deal with Digicel’s Kick Start Clinics.
“It’s about teaching,” explained Le Saux, who was on hand at Florida International University during Friday’s launch of this year’s clinics.
“The better the football education, the more opportunity there is to fulfil potential. The principle of what we’re doing isn’t talent ID as such but it’s about giving guys that wouldn’t ordinarily have [them] the opportunities with coaches at this level.
“We’re also actually training local coaches in order for them to develop their ability to put on good, quality coaching sessions,” he added.
Le Saux and five of Chelsea’s youth coaches took 30 children from the surrounding Miami areas through several passing, shooting and ball control drills as part of the opening clinic of this year’s series.
This was before the juniors got the opportunity to briefly share the field with midfield stars Michael Essien and Yossi Benayoun, who both also stood around for photo opportunities before leaving to prepare for yesterday’s exhibition game against Italian powers AC Milan at the legendary Miami Dolphins stadium.
And no one understood the significance of such a moment more than Le Saux himself, a former Chelsea, Blackburn and Southampton defender who went on to play for England after coming from humble beginnings in the Channel Islands.
“It resonates with me because I grew up in a very small island of only 80 000 people and part of my opportunity was the coaching I got from a very young age,” explained the one-time left back, who made 36 appearances for England.
“It was very important for me to have been mentored by the people who were coaching me. It’s important also to have a pathway off island if your talents are better served away from where you grow up.”
The Blues’ role in the clinics is just one part of the English club’s Here To Play, Here To Stay 2012 American tour, which saw the FA Cup kings play four exhibition games – including yesterday’s friendly against Italian power AC Milan – in as many American states over a two-week period.
And those clinics, now in their fifth year, will also have some travelling to do like the Blues, as the series moves on to Panama,  Jamaica, Trinidad, St Lucia, Grenada, Haiti, Suriname, and St Kitts and Nevis, with  English soccer legend John Barnes slated to head the coaching in each territory.
“The opportunity came up for us to work with a very, very successful organization in the Caribbean, Central America and South America and we’re really looking forward to activating some of the football programmes that Digicel runs through their clinics,” Le Saux said.