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by Andy Lewis @efc_andylewis

Marouane Fellaini hopes his visit to the Everton-Chang Thai Bev Academy could inspire its pupils to blossom and fulfil their potential as footballers.

The Blues midfielder was extended a welcome as warm as the balmy Bangkok weather as the children of the Academy relished the opportunity to meet one of their idols.

Fellaini is visiting Thailand as part of an Everton delegation that signed a new record shirt sponsorship deal with Chang on Thursday.

And the Belgian international, along with Chief Executive Robert Elstone, enjoyed the chance to witness first hand the fantastic work being carried out at the Academy – a genuine success story borne out of the relationship between the Blues and their main sponsor.

The Academy provides talented children, many of whom have experienced disadvantaged starts in life, with the opportunity to flourish in an environment where the principles the Blues instil in their own young players are championed.

And Fellaini told evertontv: “I think it is great for the kids to train with a Premier League player. They have been training hard today and have been really enthusiastic.

Fellaini Academy 2 

“When I was a young player I never had a professional footballer come and train with me, hopefully this experience can help them.

“They were asking me what they must do to become professionals and I told them they must train hard and make sacrifices and work every day to make the most of their ability.”

After leading a session alongside the Thai coaches – themselves trained by Blues Academy boss Ray Hall and his team – Fellaini spent 20 minutes answering questions from excited youngsters.

Mr Elstone was one of several impressed onlookers and he spoke enthusiastically about the excellent work being carried out at the Academy.

“Fellaini has delivered a masterclass which must be such a thrill for the kids and the coaches here,” he told evertontv. “They have watched his every move and hung on his every word and you can sense just how much they have appreciated it. I am sure it is something that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

“The Academy has made great progress since it started in 2004 and every year it gets better. We have Ray Hall and his team out here on a regular basis, we had Tony Hibbert here six months ago and it has gone from strength to strength. I know Chang are delighted with the progress and we are just really proud to be associated with it.

“Any Evertonian who could come here and see what we give back in Bangkok would be proud. There are young boys who are determined to get as far in football as they can, and these boys have not had the advantages that kids back home might get – it is a really positive project.”

Fellaini cake

After spending an hour chatting and training with the Academy and signing pictures and certificates, Fellaini and Mr Elstone held another question and answer session, this time with Thai Evertonians.

Once they had answered all their questions, the Thai Blues brought out some special gifts for Fellaini, who turned 23 on Monday.

And after blowing out the candles on a birthday cake, the Club’s record signing was presented with a pair of customised Muay Thai boxers’ shorts, personalised with his name, the Belgian flag, the Chang logo and, of course, the Everton crest.

“It was really nice of them to remember my birthday,” added Fellaini. “The day has been great and now I have a souvenir to remind me of it.”

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