It doesn't matter where in the world you are from, the message from the Gazprom International Children’s Social Programme Football for Friendship is the same from Ireland to Australia and everywhere in between.
The beauty of the Football for Friendship programme is that it gives young boys and girls the chance to meet, interact and become friends with children the same age from all over the world. It also helps improve their skills, especially their communication skills as they get the chance to be in a team with people from all over the world while being at home.
F4F unites children in International Teams of Friendship - participants of the programme are Young Players and Young Journalists – boys and girls aged between 12 and 14, including children with disabilities.
Take David Sargent, a 13-year-old, Young Journalist and Player from Ireland as an example. He is from County Kerry in the south of Ireland and during his time with the Football for Friendship programme he mixed with people from Africa and Asia.
And the programme aims to draw on the things that unify rather than divide - as David explains.
He said: “At first I was not sure what to expect, but from the very first Zoom call when I met all my teammates from all different countries and I got to interact with all sorts of different people. On my team, we had people from Africa and Asia and what was great was that even if we didn’t all speak the same language then we were still able to communicate through the game. The main thing I have learned is that not everyone is the same and don’t necessarily have the same mindset as you. Also working with people with different capabilities to you - either better or worse in some things. And if you help someone and do something nice for someone then it will probably come back around to you.”
And while David and his teammates enjoyed success in the game it was other areas of the programme where they also excelled.
Football for Friendship is also dedicated to its environmental responsibilities and David was very passionate about grating beebombs. A beebomb is a seedballs made from clay and sifted compost, packed with a range of native wildflower species’ seeds - they can be used at any time of the year and help recreate lost habitats for bees and help fight extinction.
David added: “In school we came up with an idea to try and sell these Bee Bombs to try and help the environment. When COVID happened we did not have the chance to go ahead. But when I was part of the Football for Friendship programme and we had an environmental project I used it. I learned about the bees and how if you knock down one hive then you can kill up to 80,000 bees. And it was really cool that we were able to do something quite small and save many lives. And it is not just the bees you are saving but flowers and all sorts of other things too.”
For 12-year-old Miriam Sheehan, a Young Player also from Kerry in Ireland, the chance to meet and work as a team with children from around the world was key in her deciding to join the programme and when the current pandemic is under control and restrictions are lifted she hopes to meet more people - but in the flesh this time..
She said: “The thing that attracted me the most was meeting different people from all over the world. In my team we had people from England, Nigeria, Russia and someone else from Ireland who I already knew. I have enjoyed learning the Nine Values, trying to be the best player you can be on the pitch, to be respectful and show honour and try your best. While those are all important values on the football field, they are also important in life. I am looking forward to meeting new people in the programme - maybe in real life if that is possible. That would be really cool.”
What the Football for Friendship programme goes to demonstrate is that it does not matter where you are from, what your skills are or if you have any disabilities, you can be part of a team and help make a positive difference to the world.
To find out more, go to the Football for Friendship website.
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