Lukasz Fabianski helped West Ham United win their first silverware of the season at the first-ever Premier Skills Cup in China.
The Hammer of the Year was joined by teammates Winston Reid and Robert Snodgrass, Academy coaches Carlton Cole and Gerard Prenderville and Foundation employability and coach education manager Rashid Abba at the tournament in Nanjing on Tuesday.
There, the Irons, as well as Newcastle United players Ki Sung-Yueng, Jonjo Shelvey and Freddie Woodman helped coach four mixed U12 sides comprising local schoolchildren, with Fabianski and Cole’s team going on to lift the trophy.
“It’s very exciting,” said the Poland star, who also held an impromptu goalkeeper coaching session. “The young kids are keen to participate in the Premier League tournament, so I am really happy to be here to experience that and see them enjoying themselves.
“When we arrived here, we heard the Premier League anthem, so I think the Premier League tries to make it very special for them and give them a bit of the experience that we have when we play our league games.
“The official referees (Craig Pawson and Martin Atkinson) are here and all the representatives from the teams are around the pitch, so you get a real Premier League atmosphere and I think it’s really cool what the Premier League is doing.
“Back in Poland at a young age, I’d have been amazed to take part in something like this and would have relished the opportunity.”
The winning squad’s prize will see the 16 girls and boys make the trip to London later this year to take on their West Ham counterparts.
“It’s such a great prize and something that would motivate you to win the tournament, to be able to experience the Premier League in person and see the players and the stadiums we play in,” Fabianski enthused. “It’s an amazing prize for the kids.”
The Hammers No1 has spent the vast majority of his career in the Premier League with Arsenal, Swansea City and, since summer 2018, West Ham.
And he sees programmes like Premier Skills – a partnership between the Premier League and British Council which uses football to promote education and community integration – as vital to the Premier League’s work.
“It’s amazing how big the appeal of the Premier League is around the world,” he continued. “Wherever we go, we meet fans when we’re out and about and inside the hotel. Everyone recognises us, then you realise how special the Premier League is and you try to represent it in a good way by showing good values. In a way, you’re a role model for the supporters.
“Premier Skills is an extension of that and very important because you want to give something back to the communities in different countries. That’s what makes the Premier League special – that it is focused worldwide and not just in the UK.”