'No child should ever be exposed to that' – legendary Chelsea Women's captain Chapman coaches Syrian refugees

The mother of three has recently retired as one of England’s most decorated footballers and is now extending her work overseas in a different way

Katie Chapman is a 10-time FA Cup winner and came back to captain Chelsea Women to another period of success after pregnancy, but she ranks meeting Syrian refugees in the Azraq camp in Jordan as one of her toughest life moments. 

Travelling with Plan International and the Chelsea Foundation, Chapman gave coaching sessions to youngsters looking for a respite from the hardships of living in makeshift shelters following the destruction of their country.

Chapman was a known fighter on the pitch, making her senior debut at 14, an international debut at 17 and is one of the sport’s most decorated players having played for Fulham, Arsenal and Chelsea. Deservedly, she is also Chelsea’s first female player ambassador, and her visit to Jordan has left a mark on her. 

“I went into a family shelter to talk to a woman about her crossing the border,” Chapman told Goal. “Her 10-year-old, as she was telling the stories and it was being translated, I could see in his eyes that he was able to relive the bombs, the shooting and all that sort of stuff of having to try to cross the border with his parents. 

“No child should ever be exposed to that sort of stuff, as a parent trying to protect their children and cross that border as well. You would do anything to protect your children. I sat there in tears for the whole interview. 

“I think, for me, the trip was a real eye-opener. I wasn’t emotionally prepared for what I was going into and what I was going to see. I think from coming from the hotel we came from was about a half an hour drive. 

“We came into a desert area into these little huts that were fenced in. There were kids walking around entertaining themselves, whether it be throwing stones or by kicking dust. It was quite heart-breaking to see that, particularly as a parent to see that. 

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“To go there and inspire the kids as Chelsea Football Club, to do training sessions, give them some kit and see the smiles on their faces. Just the excitement of us being there and coaching them for a bit so they can run around and have fun for a bit. 

“I am so grateful for that. Plan invited me to come to it. It has taught me about my life and how I raise my children. Some of the stuff that I thought was tough about my life, and then I saw them. I don’t live in that. My kids are spoilt [by comparison], and it gave me that realisation about my life.” 

Chapman still spends time around Chelsea Women, who are third in the Women’s Super League and are competing for honours under Emma Hayes in FA Cup and Champions League competitions. 

Meanwhile, Chapman remains touched by her experiences in Jordan and is now training to run the London Marathon on April 28 to raise money for Plan International, as she looks for further donations to their causes.

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