It was a day never to forget for 60 young girls in Israel on Sunday as hours after touching down in the country, Chelsea Women’s manager Emma Hayes and Blues pair Anita Asante and Deanna Cooper surprised them at a Chelsea Foundation session.
The Blues arrived in Tel Aviv on Sunday morning ahead of their pre-season friendly with the Israeli women’s national team on Tuesday. Not long after landing Hayes and the players visited the Israeli Football Association National Training Facility to join a female empowerment workshop and coaching session.
Hayes and the Blues duo began by getting involved with the coaching session, which was ran by Chelsea Foundation coaches, and included a series of fun activities and games between a mixture of Israeli and Palestinian girls. As the young footballers spoke either Hebrew, Arabic or English, the groups had two interpreters each to ensure key messages were communicated clearly.
Afterwards, they followed the girls to a female empowerment workshop that highlighted barriers in women’s football, and in groups the players made pledges on how they would address them. The educational session also focused on celebrating differences between people and understanding that it is something to celebrate.
The morning was supported by the Israeli Football Association and the Peres Peace Center, an independent non-profit organisation.
Tuesday’s match will be staged to celebrate women’s football and support further development of the sport in Israel. It will take place at Ha-Moshava Stadium and is being sponsored by Chelsea’s owner Roman Abramovich and the Israeli FA.
Hayes, who was quick to take control of the coaching session on arrival, said: ‘It is fantastic to be here, providing opportunities for girls within this community. Allowing them to integrate safely and play football, make friends, and have fun.
‘It is a wonderful opportunity provided by our owner Roman Abramovich, who is extremely passionate about women’s football and hopefully this trip and days like this inspire a new generation of girls to play football in Israel.
‘Chelsea as a football club promotes equality and diversity in a way I’ve never seen before. We don’t tolerate it on our terraces or in our communities and providing an opportunity for the women’s team to help the Say No To Anti-semitism campaign by coming to Israel is a unique thing to do.’
Asante added: ‘It has been a totally new experience for me being here. To meet girls from so many different backgrounds just shows the power of football and how you can bring people together, which is what we as a club are all about.
‘It is a great honour to be here and we are really fortunate to have Roman Abramovich support the trip and the women’s team. It really shows the reach of the club and the difference we can make globally, especially for young girls to get the chance to meet their role models.’
Chelsea Foundation schools co-ordinator Sam Gaskin-Kemp, who ran the education session, said: ‘It’s an amazing opportunity for us to come out to Israel and talk about all the exciting work we do back in London and replicate that here in Israel.
‘It’s a really good opportunity to promote the brand and all the good things we’re doing, particularly around women’s football and female empowerment.
‘Hearing the girls in the educational sessions talking about their aspirations for playing for the Israeli team was really inspiring and very strong.’