“EACH COUNTRY HAS A SPECIAL PLACE IN CHELSEA FOOTBALL CLUB’S HEART,” SAYS DAVID MONK OF THE CHELSEA FOOTBALL CLUB FOUNDATION

Following the inaugural Digicel Kick Start Clinic in Bermuda – and ahead of November’s week-long Digicel Chelsea Football Academywww.digicelfootball.com spoke exclusively to Digicel Kick Start Clinics Head Coach, David Monk, from the Chelsea Foundation.

  • David, it’s your first time hosting the Digicel Kick Start Clinics in Bermuda, what are your thoughts on the young talent you saw there? And how did Bermuda differ from the other territories in the Caribbean?

Firstly, the assistance we received from the sponsors – the Bermuda Athletic Association (BAA) and the Bermuda Football Association (BFA) – highlights the commitment to the development of football in the country and the amount of opportunities open to Bermudian footballers. And while Bermuda is a small island, it boasts great facilities. What we found is that the players are a product of their environment – which is professional with great facilities, great organisation and great coaches. As a result, the talent is very high and particularly so with regards to the technical ability. Personally, I rate Bermuda as easily being in the top five of the 11 countries we’ve been to this year – so a big credit to Bermuda.

  • Now you’ve got the full complement for the Academy in Barbados, what are your expectations?

I think the fact that we’ve hand-picked a group of Caribbean all-stars to be divided evenly and equally across three teams for the week-long Academy, means we do have high expectations. We’re not over expecting, but we have picked 39 fantastic ambassadors and we’ve been very fair to every position in a team so everyone has the ability to showcase their talent and represent their country well.

The winners of the Bermuda leg of the Digicel Kick Start Clinics pose with the three coaches from the Chelsea Foundation. From left to right; Amar Lewis, Chelsea Foundation Coach, Kane Cowburn, Tyriko Williams, Chelsea Foundation Coach, David Monk, Te’vahn Williams, Chelsea Foundation Coach, Russell Banyard and Bermuda Clinic Wild Card, Mazhye Burchall.

The winners of the Bermuda leg of the Digicel Kick Start Clinics pose with the three coaches from the Chelsea Foundation. From left to right; Amar Lewis, Chelsea Foundation Coach, Kane Cowburn, Tyriko Williams, Chelsea Foundation Coach, David Monk, Te’vahn Williams, Chelsea Foundation Coach, Russell Banyard and Bermuda Clinic Wild Card, Mazhye Burchall.

The most important thing for me is that the players not only learn from us, but also from one another – their ambassadorial peers – socially, as well as in the football environment.

  • What three things would you say to the aspiring young players in preparation for the Digicel Chelsea Football Academy?

1. Stay fit and healthy, look after yourselves, get the correct amount of sleep and food so that you are in good physical and mental health and 100% ready for the Academy.

2. Use the opportunity between now and the Academy to set your goals for the week – meaning be clear about what you want to get out of it – whether that be learning how to play with different cultures and styles, improving your ability as a team player or pushing yourself to pursue a long term career in football.

3. If you can, get in touch with your fellow teammates from your own country and discuss what each of you wants – and how each of you are going to be the best ambassadors for your country.

  • Where would you like to see the DKSC/Academy evolve to?

Ultimately I’m hoping that next year we can prioritise the wider community as well as the players. By that I mean, in visiting these countries, we can lay a foundation for the next generation of players and athletes by working with different age groups so that they can experience and understand the positive impact football can have on people of both sexes, all ages, religion and ethnicity.

We would also like to see an extended coach education programme – where they are hand-picked and brought to an Academy specifically for coaches.

These are the two avenues we would like to see developed next year and Digicel – as the driving force behind this programme – is on board with bringing these ideas to life in the coming years. From a Chelsea point of view, we are really pleased with the popularity and appeal of the clinics which is continuing to grow with even more countries looking to get on board for next year. This is really encouraging to us as coaches and if the type of people are similar to those we’ve interacted with in Digicel, we don’t see any reason to stop us bringing the clinics even further.

  • Finally David, some people would say you have a dream job – and you really seem to enjoy coming to the Caribbean. What kind of things do you say about your time here when you go back to England, and what keeps you excited about coming back?

The first thing I talk about when I go back to England is about how much Caribbean people care and show enthusiasm towards football. I think there is a misconception that this region loves football but, because only a few guys have gone on to a really top level, it is more about cricket and athletics here. What we have found is that the athleticism is top notch among young footballers here so for me I try to dispel people’s misconceptions. My job gives also me the amazing chance to meet new people and see for myself the youth football portfolio in the region – that sitting behind my desk in London I would never get to experience. Of course we always look forward to coming back and seeing the same people year after year who have become part of the programme and part of making it great.

On a personal level, I love interacting with Caribbean people because they are so open and hospitable and my colleagues and I have been welcomed so sincerely that we’ve been blown away. I think that as a result of that hospitality, each country has a special place in Chelsea Football Club’s heart.

And I have to say, I don’t mind the gorgeous weather either!

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