On July 14th, English Premier League giants Chelsea FC played a post-season exhibition match against Mexican team Club America at Stanford Stadium in front of 47,000 spectators, resulting in a 2-1 victory for Chelsea FC.
I was very pleased to have been involved in the match promotion for the event owners and assisting with VIP logistics for personal invitees and guests of Right to Play. We also provided a data collection service for the event owners as well as pre-game activities on behalf of Right to Play. I was also very pleased to involve Union FC staff, players and family members in various activities surrounding the game. For example, we accepted the task of enlisting 100 volunteers from across the Bay Area for data collection (we had the volunteers distribute a ‘chance to win a trip to England’ post card) and Carine and Greg, both of whom sadly missed most of the game (running around the stadium in a golf buggy!) due to this project, had 100 volunteers distribute 40,000 postcards at half time, each receiving 3 free tickets and a t-shirt for their volunteer efforts… (thanks to Arthur Raefsky, Sophia Raefsky and Lisa Bernard for helping here too)
Many of our World Soccer and Union FC friends attended the match. Myself and several other of my associates were instrumental in promoting the game to the Bay Area soccer community and several corporations in Silicon Valley. Many VIP’s in soccer, sport and business attended as guests of Right to Play and as personal guests of mine. American Football legend Steve Young and his wife were our guests and enjoyed his first ever soccer game. Steve recently toured Ghana as a Right to Play athlete ambassador so it was great to see him participate in another Right to Play related activity. Other guests included sports franchise owners, hi-tech executives, CEO's of corporations and media organizations, US Club Soccer and Norcal officials as well as UK Director and head of Global Football for Right to Play, Chris Robinson who we have enjoyed working with both in Palo Alto and Los Angeles.
The entire Chelsea FC team (John Terry, Frank Lampard, Michael Essien, Joe Cole, Didier Drogba, Andriy Shevchenko, Arjen Robben and Peter Cech) were in Palo Alto along with coach Jose Mourinho. The team flew up from Los Angeles arriving at midday before departing at 10 p.m from San Jose airport the same day and back to their Beverly Hills accommodations.
As some of you already know, I am a volunteer consultant/strategic advisor for global sports charity Right to Play. Carine has also donated much time to helping this fantastic organization which is the official global charity partner for Chelsea FC, the MLS and other organizations. Zidane is now also an athlete ambassador for Right to Play. Moments prior to the Chelsea FC vs. America game I arranged a 5 minute Right to Play video to be displayed on the big screen at Stanford, as well as large Right to Play/Red Ball banner (the first and only one made in the world!) which I originally had intended to cover the entire center circle. However due to time and financial constraints we were only able to display a smaller 9ft radius banner. Nevertheless the banner was prominent and attractive enough and was carried onto the field behind both teams by members of Union FC club players, Nehal Ismael, Nicola White, Wesley Woo, Kat and Ryan McCauliffe and Marie Burhenne who positioned the banner behind both teams after they proudly walked the Right To Play banner onto the field, which, I need to add is another ‘first’. This is the first time the Right to Play banner was walked onto any soccer field in the world which will become increasingly more popular as Right to Play forms more alliances with sporting teams and leagues.
Just before kick off we enlisted the help of several Union F.C parents who were waiting next to the Chelsea FC dressing room for their children to return from the field and promptly put them to work placing the RTP “Red Ball’s” into the hands of each player from both teams. So when you saw the players kicking the balls into the stands, you know how they got them in their hands!
A special thanks to Carine and Greg who did tremendous work before, during and after the game and also to Chris Conroy who was issued a media pass to take photos for me for Right to Play. Their work was greatly appreciated.
The following day in Los Angeles, we conducted a Right to Play Coaching demonstration run by myself and Head of Right to Play UK and Global Soccer, Chris Robinson, Carine Ireland and Lorrie Fair at UCLA next to the Chelsea F.C training field. I had arranged for sixty elite youth players from the Los Angeles area (FC Barcelona club) to participate in the clinic-20 being coached by us in a special Right To Play session and the other 40 being coached by Chelsea FC youth coaches as a backdrop to the proceedings. Chelsea F.C players Michael Essien, Kalou and Diarra, all Right To Play Athlete Ambassadors made appearances for the players and afterwards coach Jose Mourinho allowed the entire group to watch a closed training session with the 20 of our Right to Play players being allowed a private autograph session with every Chelsea FC player, one of whom was given a wrist band by Didier Drogba. We also had a guest appearance from Los Angeles Galaxy assistant coach (and occasional Union FC guest coach for some of you familiar with his name), Tim Hanley who spoke with us about Right to Play.
On July 17th, we arranged for all Chelsea FC and Korean team Suwong carry Right to Play “Red Balls” on the field and kick them into the stands as they did at Stanford a few days earlier. The Adidas/ Right to Play tent had excellent placement inside the stadium also.
On July 18th, Carine, Chris Robinson, Christopher Sullivan and I went to the Chelsea FC team party as guests of Chelsea FC where we met up with some old friends and acquaintances and made new acquaintances. The view was spectacular high in the hills overlooking Los Angeles and the guest, including players and staff all had a few hours to relax from their daily regimen of training and games and enjoy the views. Far from children or people in need, it was important for us to remember how fortunate we were to be in good health with no apparent care in the world. It was back on the ground and to reality for the next few days seeking new Right to Play partners and sponsors after seeing the Hollywood set ‘Paint the Town Blue”.
On July 19th at the MLS All Star game in Denver, Right to Play announced its affiliation with the MLS receiving a mention at the Commissioner's Press Conference. Right to Play announced the names of 20 MLS athlete ambassadors before the game. Spectators were handed an Adidas/ Right to Play brochure upon entering the stadium along with the MLS/ Right to Play postcard. Before the game, the Adidas/ Right to Play tent had excellent placement inside the stadium. The ceremony featured an in-stadium introduction and explanation of Right To Play, airing of Right to Play PSA on the stadium screen with logo, and all Celtic and MLS players walking onto the field with Right to Play ‘Red Balls’ and holding them during the national anthems. During halftime Right to Play received another PSA on stadium screens.
On July 21st Right To Play held a function in Manhattan Beach where we hosted Right to Play founder and CEO Johann Koss, Global Football Director Chris Robinson, Adidas sponsor reps and other Right To Play staff. A few actors and producers as well as USA National team player Abby Wambach and friend USA national team player Megan Rapinoe also attended the function with Carine, UK Right to Play director and myself before heading to the Home Depot Center for the Chelsea FC vs. Los Angeles Galaxy game for David Beckham’s eagerly awaited debut. Our Right To Play group was distributed around the full stadium most eagerly awaiting the arrival of Beckham who managed to ineffectively hobble around the field for the final 15 minutes with a swollen ankle. Carine, Chris Robinson and I sat with Abby Wambach for the game and it was fun to exchange notes. Abby really showed her soccer passion and enthusiasm while most of the entire USA women’s national team cheered on from a few rows below. Right to Play and Adidas arranged for the Chelsea FC players to kick their Right to Play ‘Red Balls’ into the stadium just before kick off as well as having excellent presence at the Right to Play exhibitor booth on the concourse.
After a fortuitous meeting which I arranged for Right to Play’s Johann Koss and Chris Robison with an extremely supportive Major League Soccer Deputy Commissioner Ivan Gazidas on the stadium concourse area, we unfortunately had to skip the VIP area where several people had asked to meet us. Carine, Chris and I had rush Johann to Los Angeles airport for his flight to Thailand for yet another journey for this extraordinary person who had recently completed his participation in the ‘Gigathlon’ helping raise $125,000 for Right to Play.
It was the end of the tour for Chelsea FC who headed directly to the airport for London and for Carine and I too. We also said our goodbyes to friend Christopher Sullivan who left for Chicago to cover Blanco’s debut in the Chicago vs. Celtic match (1-1) on Fox Soccer Channel, not before we had a kick around at Christopher’s hotel with a Right to Play “Red Ball”……
In all we enjoyed helping Right to Play meet new friends and supporters and were happy to have played a small role in promoting Right to Play to American soccer goers. Perhaps the biggest enjoyment was seeing our Union FC players take the field with the Chelsea FC and Club America players and to also help raise funding for Right to Play.
We have some major Right to Play activities coming our way which may prove to be even more exciting than the Chelsea FC tour …watch this space! If you have any ideas or suggestions on how we can help raise funds and awareness for Right to Play, please contact me at your convenience!
Director of Operations, PSV Union FC
Advisor/Consultant, Right to Play