Cheque please! Ashley Cole becomes team waiter after losing Rafa's bowling trip
08:13 GMT, 13 December 2012
One week after being skittled out of the Champions League, Rafa Benitez organised a ten-pin bowling expedition for his Chelsea players with Ashley Cole among those to suffer in the unforgiving lanes of Yokohama.
Benitez hatched the Japanese bowling trip to help his players bond and fight the jet-lag ahead of their debut in the FIFA Club World Cup. Players and staff split into small groups with the worst bowlers being made to wait on tables for their team-mates.
'It wasn’t really about who won, it was about who lost,' revealed Gary Cahill, who performed better than left-back Cole. 'Whoever lost had to serve the dinner at the hotel. It was Ashley in our group.'
Loser: Ashley Cole was forced to wait on his teammates after losing the bowling tournament
He added: 'There were about six of us and he was waiting on us. I have to say, he’s a better left-back than a waiter. I think the only tip anyone gave him was: “Don’ t do it again”.
'Everyone played, including the manager. There were a few strikes and the standard was alright, actually. I’d describe myself as an average bowler. It was a bit of team bonding, a chance to get the lads together and then we had some food.
'It was good because aside from that, we’ve just been preparing for the games. This has given us an opportunity because we’re all away together for a few days and once you’ve trained, there’s nothing on.
'That’s been the only thing really. We’re not here on holiday. We’re here for a reason. We’re here to prepare for the game. But we’ve had a bit of down time when we first came and it was good to get out for an hour instead of going stir-crazy in the hotel.'
Chelsea will get down to business on Thursday when they face Monterrey in the Club World Cup semi-final
Benitez also wanted to guard against jet-lag and feared if the players had free time in the evening they would spend the evening snoozing, settling into the wrong sleep patterns for a team who will launch their campaign on Thursday against Monterrey, of Mexico.
'I was here in 2005 and we knew we had to do something to keep the players busy because if not they go to sleep,' said Benitez, the first manager to lead three different teams into the Club World Cup.
'When they are thinking they need to go to sleep, we had to organise some activities to keep them ready. The majority understand they have to do it. Each person is different. For most people it is not the main thing but for a player who has to compete, sleep is really important.'
Relaxed: Juan Mata and Frank Lampard have some fun in training at the Yokohama International Stadium
English teams have suffered similar problems in the past. When Liverpool were in Tokyo for the Toyota Cup final against Flamengo in December 1981, some players were struggling to sleep on the eve of the game and they went to a nearby driving range for 30 minutes to hit some golf balls. It did not help as they were beaten next day by the Brazilians.
Despite their early exit from this year’s Champions League, this tournament has rekindled memories of Chelsea’s victory in Munich in May, as did Didier Drogba’ s decision to buy “Superbowl” style commemorative rings for his team-mates and staff at a personal cost thought to be around 800,000.
'It was an amazing surprise,' said Cahill. 'I had no idea when he came in and called us all together. I was very touched. It was extremely generous for a start because it was his idea and no-one needs to go out and do that. Not just for us for the staff as well.
'It shows what his character is. He is a great lad. It reminds us of what a great achievement it was. He said that's why he did it, so that none of us forget what a huge achievement it was.
'It’s something I'll keep for the rest of my life but I’m not sure it’s a ring I’d wear. I'm not flashy. It’s more of a memento. It's personal and individual to every player and something you want to save.'