The 2018 Football for Friendship (F4F) programme is transforming a FIFA World Cup dream into reality for Meihua Franck and Iawiolo Batal, two Ni-Vanuatu youngsters selected to fly to Russia, all trip expenses paid, to represent Vanuatu at the F4F programme. F4F is an annual International Children’s social programme organised by Gazprom, an international company supporting global social projects and setting new social policy standards.
Taking place in Moscow, Russia on 8-15 June ahead of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, the aim of the programme is to promote essential values embodied by football with the younger generation such as respect for other cultures and nationalities as well as equality.
Ms. Franck and Mr. Batal will represent Vanuatu as players, giving their country a chance to attend FIFA World Cup despite the national team failing to qualify for the tournament. They will join 12-year-old Young Players and Journalists from 211 countries and regions to participate in the 8-day programme. In 2018, 147 new countries and regions will take part in the F4F, in other words - 3,700 people aged between 12 to 16 years, having participated in the programme over the past five years.
“I like football because I get to show men and women that we are all the same. Equal opportunities make everybody happy because we have the same rights. Football not only gives me the opportunity to be healthy, but it enables me to make lots of friends,” said Ms. Franck.
Meanwhile, Mr. Batal said: “As a goalkeeper, I have a strong and fighting spirit. Football has allowed me to build a strong bond with a boy which is now my best friend. Friendship is very important.”
A total of 32 International Teams of Friendship will compete at the Football for Friendship World Championship on 12 June 2018. In the days leading up to the tournament, each player will be trained by young coaches who are football players from various countries between 14 and 16 years old. The Championship and training sessions will form the majority of the programme in addition to the International Football for Friendship Children’s Forum. The forum will
see participants discussing how to promote the programme’s core values: friendship, equality, fairness, health, peace, devotion, victory, traditions and honour. At the end of the programme, all F4F participants will attend the opening match of FIFA World Cup on 14 June 2018 as hosts Russia take on Saudi Arabia at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.
Additionally, more than 5,000 media outlets worldwide will cover the programme, which is considered a unique educational project by the United Nations. The Football for Friendship International Children’s Press сenter, consisting of 12-year-old journalists from the 211 countries and regions, will tell their own F4F stories that will be beamed around the world.
This opportunity is the result of Vanuatu Football Federation’s global partnership with Football For Friendship programme (RUS), Lengo Football Academy (AUS), Reagan Milstein Foundation (AUS) and Football Music Culture (AUS/NZ).
Kevin Milstein, the founder of Reagan Milstein Foundation, said: “For over seven years, the Reagan Milstein Foundation has been building relationship with the Football Associations across the South Pacific. Now, Football for Friendship, through Lengo Football Academy, have thrown open the doors of opportunity for children across this vast area of the world.”
Since 2013, PJSC Gazprom has been organizing the International Children’s social programme Football for Friendship. The key values promoted by the programme participants include friendship, equality, fairness, health, peace, devotion, victory, traditions and honour. The participants are Young Players (girls and boys, including physically challenged), as well as Young Journalists covering the F4F events within the framework of Football for Friendship International Children’s Press сenter. Geographical scope of the programme expands annually: from 8 countries in 2013 to 211 countries in 2018. For the past five years, more than 3,700 people have participated in the programme.
Football for Friendship programme is supported by FIFA, UEFA, International Olympic Committee, football federations of various countries, international children's charity funds, and world's leading football clubs.
32 International Teams of Friendship were formed during the Open Draw, as well as playing roles for each Young Player from each country (goalkeeper, defender, midfielder or forward) were determined. After definition of the roles for the Young Players, their coaches will be selected this way: 19 countries which will represent the Young Coaches were defined in an unpredictable manner as a result of an Open Draw, 11 coaches will be chosen from the cities hosting the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™, 2 Young Coaches will be selected from the best participants of the previous seasons of the Football for Friendship programme.