LONDON: The official sponsor of the Chelsea Football Club (CFC), Samsung Malaysia Electronics (SME) Sdn Bhd, has managed to make itself the first international group to exclusively "train like a pro" with the club’s coaches at its training academy in Cobham, United Kingdom.
The winner of the "Skill your way to Stamford Bridge" contest on Nov 7, Justin Mah, 18, won a trip to the football club and a one-day training at the academy last month together with two My Team players Azrul Azmi and Mohd Nazrin Mohd Nawi.
The group was taken to the state-of-the-art training ground where the football club’s main training takes place, including routine training by the Chelsea first team players such as John Terry, Frank Lampard, Joe Cole, Michael Ballack and Didier Drogba.
The centre, which took nearly two years to build and is designed to unify all football activities at Chelsea in "campus style", has 30 full-size football pitches used for training at all levels.
The group also visited the home of the club – the Stamford Bridge, which is the club’s home stadium, the club museum as well as witnessed the first team players train with club manager Luiz Felipe Scolari, and also got their autographs and photos.
Mah later said the training would help in the long term although it was just a one-day session.
"I enjoyed training here (in Cobham) in such a beautiful environment with great pitches and nice weather as well as friendly coaches. It was also a fun experience," he said
On how he picked up football skills, Mah said: "I started watching videos on freestyle football skills as a kid and had been practising over the past five years."
SME brand marketing specialist Lynne Lee, who led the group to Chelsea, said the programme was an idea derived from Samsung’s partnership with Chelsea – a five-year sponsorship deal signed in 2005.
"Chelsea proposed to us to have young Malaysians to experience its training at the club’s training ground and we wanted talented footballers to have that kind of opportunity
"The trip is like a pilot project not only for Samsung Malaysia but also for Samsung international. This is, in fact, the first international group to visit Cobham," Lee said.
"We also hope to bring more young players from Malaysia here and we hope the training programme can be made a yearly event so that lucky Malaysians can have this chance," she said.
Lee said when the contest was launched, many did not know about it. Mah was one of the few who participated and was chosen by a panel of judges like former Malaysian player and football commentator Serbegeth "Shebby" Singh
"Sports-marketing has become important to Samsung and we brought Chelsea to Malaysia in July. We have seen how successful the Asian tour was and that inspired the football competition," she said.
Chelsea veteran player Ken Monkou, who played for the club from 1989 to 1992, joined the group for the training that day. He said the training programme was good, as fans could see how the football club operates.
"To involve the sponsor and the supporters to contribute to the club is actually a positive thing and I think the club realises it (better after the training)," he said.