For centuries football has been a great equalizer. No matter who you are or where you come from football comes down to two teams and one ball.
And that is the basis that founded the Gazprom International Children’s Social Programme Football for Friendship back in 2013 - to bring children aged 12-14 from all over the world together through football.
The programme includes a number of football and educational events held in different countries around the globe with the aim of promoting a healthy and active lifestyle, as well as fostering an attitude of respect toward other cultures. And the programme has grown massively since it started back in 2013 and now unites over 16,000 participants from 211 countries and regions.
The key objectives of the programme are to develop children's football around the world, while also promoting an active and healthy lifestyle. The programme also encourages the social involvement of youth in sports and culture and also fostering a multicultural worldview and also promoting essential shared human values on a global scale.
And when it comes to the values of Football for Friendship they have Nine Values they focus on: friendship, equality, fairness, health, peace, devotion, victory, traditions, and honour.
The Nine Values are universal and relevant all around the world, regardless of what language someone speaks. Not everyone will speak English, but everyone understands the value of health and friendship.
The official symbol of the programme is the Friendship Bracelet is made of two simple strings, one blue and one green. Blue signifies a clear, cloudless sky, and green is a symbol of the football field – a field that always remains the same and is available to everyone in every place of the world, regardless of age, gender, and social status. And the bracelet can be worn by anyone who shares the Football for Friendship Nine Values.
And during the programme each of the participants are encouraged to discuss how they understand each of the values and they share how they feel about each along with examples.
And while football remains at the core of the programme, there are also other areas in which children are able to learn and excel in different areas.
One of those is the International Children's Press Centre. And the Young Journalists cover the events of the programme for the F4F website, social media, and even a special edition newspaper.
But the work of the Football for Friendship programme does not stop on the pitch. Off it they use their opportunities to draw attention to the ecological topics across the globe. Every year, Young Participants hold different events to support nature and pay attention to environmental issues.
One of the elements of the ecological initiative aims to support endangered animals: every year, the 32 International Teams of Friendship are named after the endangered species.
This year the children filmed a video where they shared their small steps how they help the environment.
The Young Participants are actively engaged in volunteer activities in their countries by planting trees and asking people to keep the planet safe and clean.
All this goes to prove that as well as a great equalizer, football is more than just winning and losing.
To find out more, go to the Football for Friendship website.
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