Chelsea FC Foundation has launched a new community amputee programme engaging those with any form of amputation into football.
The programme, supported by Sure UK, will see Chelsea Foundation take part in the English Amputee Football Association (EAFA) National League, along with a specialised programme for junior amputees.
The Chelsea Foundation team come together from across the country and have bi-weekly training sessions at the club’s training ground in Cobham, while taking part in league fixtures at the EAFA’s base in Nantwich.
The fixtures are in seven-a-side format and have outfield players playing on crutches, with the requirement for goalkeepers to have only one arm. Four of the current Chelsea Foundation squad have represented the England Amputee team, and for some this included playing at the World Cup in October 2022.
Club captain Mark Smith said: ‘We all feel immense pride in having the opportunity to represent Chelsea and it’s created an incredible atmosphere. We have some of the best young talent in the country and the level of coaching, facilities and support we have are exactly what they deserve.
‘To lead this outstanding group as club captain is an honour that will stay with me for life and a privilege that will not be lost on me every single time I’m fortunate enough to pull on the shirt. Without doubt, beyond the competitive nature of playing for Chelsea, the thing I’m proudest of is to see our junior programme in place. To see the future of Chelsea is exciting and to watch them grow and develop as players and people is a rewarding as any trophy.’
Ellie Crabb, Chelsea Foundation inclusion and disability senior officer who manages the team, said: ‘For me, this programme is right at the heart of what we do at Chelsea Foundation, bringing together people in a football environment to benefit them socially and as football players.
‘I am very proud to manage this side in the league this season, alongside starting up our community-based sessions for the next generation of junior amputees. They are an extremely dedicated group who give 100 per cent on every opportunity and I can’t wait to see where this takes us.’
Some of the squad took part in some fun challenges with Conor Gallagher, Trevor Chalobah and Marc Cucurella in a session organised by Sure UK.
Shelbee Clarke, who is the only female member of the squad, said: ‘It was an honour to be involved in the challenges, and to share the same pitch as some incredible players. I can’t wait to show women can do anything we put our minds to.’
Kieran Lambourne, vice-captain for the Chelsea Foundation Amputee team, said, ‘For us it’s massive to be a part of Chelsea. It’s brilliant to have this group of players and staff to continue to progress us as a team and give the opportunity for younger amputees to train through our junior programme. If we can be looked up to as role models in our roles and assist in their development then that in itself would be incredible.’
Nathan Fisher, fellow vice-captain, said: ‘Training and playing whilst wearing the Chelsea badge is an honour and I always take pride when I wear the Chelsea shirt as it’s a massive part of my life. Being named vice-captain was a huge thing for me, it will help me develop as a player and leader on the pitch. It’s about reciprocating the effort Chelsea have put into the team with the great facilities and coaching they have provided.’