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European Champions Chelsea to use Thailand as Launch Pad



Chelsea CEO Ron Gourlay, left, presents a club shirt to Piti Bhirom Bhakdi, Singha Corporation


BANGKOK – European champions Chelsea will lay the foundations for their 2013/2014 season in Thailand, when they visit for the second time in three years, to play an exhibition match in July to mark the 80th anniversary of Boon Rawd Brewery.

The English Premier League giants will face a Singha All Star XI at Rajamangala National Stadium on July 17, nearly two years after they last visited the country they call their “second home”. However, this time around will be different, as the Blues are planning a week-long pre-season training camp in Bangkok.

“Our visit to Bangkok this July heralds a big, big change as we would like to use the Thai capital as our pre-season base. It’s never been done before. We’ll base ourselves in Bangkok at critical time in the pre-season,” Chelsea CEO Ron Gourlay told a packed press conference yesterday at Bangkok’s Renaissance Hotel.

“We’ll spend a week in the community, as part of our “Here to Play Here to Stay” legacy. We promise you we aren’t just coming to play the game and leave. We’ll make the team as available to fans, to the community, as possible.

“We will support the fans with opportunities to meet the team at open training sessions at [Rajamangala National Stadium], at the “Blue Pitch”, or football school, we’ll have during our week-long stay. We will try as much as possible to pay back for the fabulous support we always have here.”

Gourlay said the whole club was looking forward to returning, especially for the 80th birthday of Boon Rawd’s Singha, the club’s global partners, which extended its contract by another three years.

“This [Bangkok] is our second home now. We normally have as much support here as we have in London. It’s fantastic for us to come here.

“We all remember our last visit here in 2011. I made two promises then. One, I said if we won the Champions League I would bring the team back within two years. So, here we are.

“I also promised with our CSR work that we would launch the “Blue Pitch” for the community. That was launched in July last year. So, hopefully, we’ve delivered our promises for you.

“For the game against the Singha XI, as always, I’m absolutely certain that the stadium will be full.

“I assure you we’ll bring the strongest team we can to one of Chelsea’s real broad bases in the world, probably with a couple of new faces we hopefully acquire in the summer, as we continue to strengthen our team.”However, Gourlay came up short of a clear answer when asked whether England international midfielder Frank Lampard, whose contract will expire at the end of the season, would be included for the Thailand trip.

“We’re not prepared to discuss that at this time. Obviously, conversations must remain confiden-tial between the club and the player at all times. That’s as much as I can say.”

Chelsea will be the second EPL club to visit the Kingdom in July, with Manchester United due to play in Bangkok four days earlier.

Liverpool and Spanish giants Barcelona are the other two European giants scheduled to visit as part of a month-long football feast starting in mid-July.

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