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Young heroes to share magic of football

12-year-old promising football players and 12-year-old aspiring journalists from Australia, American Samoa, Cook Islands, Fiji, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tahiti, Tonga and Vanuatu have returned to their home countries as Football For Friendship Young Ambassadors after attending the 2018 Gazprom International Children’s Social Programme, Football For Friendship
(F4F) in Moscow.

In the lead up to the FIFA World Cup 2018™, the sixth Football For Friendship programme was attended by 1500 children and was covered by over 300 international media outlets to spread the values embodied by the beautiful game to the world. Now these kids will bring the values learned at this rapidly growing global social programme to their own countries in the name of friendship.

F4F consisted of training for designated Young Players, masterclasses for designated Young Journalists, the showpiece Football For Friendship World Championship and finished with Football For Friendship International Children’s Forum.

On 12 June, the Football for Friendship World Championship was held at the Sapsan Arena, home of local professional club FC Kazanka Moscow. In total, 32 International Teams of Friendship were formed on the friendship principle, with each team named after rare animals on the verge of extinction to increase the interest of younger generations in preserving the world’s fauna.

Team ‘Chimpanzee’ won the tournament and were presented with the Nine Values Cup, representing the nine values of the programme: friendship, equality, fairness, health, peace, devotion, victory, traditions and honour. Its team comprised of young players
from Wales, Kenya, Dominican Republic, Guinea-Bissau, Philippines and Brazil showcasing a feature of the F4F programme with athletes of different nationalities, genders and physical abilities uniting to play as one team.

At the International Football For Friendship Children’s Forum, personal endorsements from legendary Spanish goalkeeper, Iker Casillas, and Russian Under 17s manager and former international striker, Aleksandr Kerzhakov, took place. Russian President, Vladimir Putin, sent his own message, which was read out by the Deputy Prime Minister for Social Affairs, Olga Golodets.

To cap off the programme, all participants were invited to attend the opening match of the FIFA World Cup 2018™. The delegation of almost 1500 children watched Russia beat Saudi Arabia 5-0 in the tournament opener with some even participating as flag wavers in the opening ceremony, capping off an experience that will live long in the memories of these 12 year-old Football For Friendship Young Ambassadors.

The official Football For Friendship App has been released so that participants can continue to tell the F4F story all year round, showing the commitment organisers have to building a generation of connected, open people.

“I really like the fact that now that I’ve returned home after Football for Friendship, I will
be able to show my friends videos and photos from all events as well as interesting facts about all the countries of the world that are so wonderfully described in the app,”said Young Ambassador of Football for Friendship, Noah Borg (12, Australia).

F4F Global Director, Vladimir Serov, told the children before an opening day crowd at Moscow’s Spartak Football Academy: “In one team, playing together there are kids of different nationalities, different genders, different physical abilities.
“I believe together we will be able to help them, our young participants, to find new friends from different countries, to learn how to play together, how to live together … and I believe they will show people what the world could be without discrimination, without
racism, war and violence.”

This opportunity was brought to the Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific region by Football For Friendship’s global football partnership with Lengo Football Academy and its local partner, Reagan Milstein Foundation.

Emanuel Saakai, founder and Director of Football at Lengo Football Academy has heaped praise on what was a once in a lifetime opportunity for many young participants.

“What an incredible life changing experience for a whole generation of bright kids. Now they can take the F4F message to their peers in their home countries and spread the message of peace and equality so that they can grow together through the magic of football.”

The seventh instalment of the F4F programme will be held in 2019 with details soon to be announced.

Participant quotes:

Solomon Islands

Young Player: Abraham Iniga

“I started playing football when I was five. My dad is a national player for our country
and with his help and encouragement, I dream that one day, I can follow my father’s
footsteps. Football is about more than playing – it brings friendship, unity and peace. In
football, there are no differences and titles, we are one,” said Mr. Iniga.

Young Journalist: Hendrix Maneoru
Mr. Maneoru said:

“I am pleased to be nominated for the Football for Friendship
programme and to support the values of friendship, equality, fairness, health, peace,
devotion, victory, traditions and honour. I believe that everyone should be given an
equal chance and that people should be treated fairly so we can all live together in
peace and harmony and make the world a better place.”


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