Gazprom, the official sponsor of the UEFA Champions League, has announced the opening of the fourth season of the Football For Friendship international children's social project.
The Football For Friendship project is implemented by Gazprom within the Gazprom for Children initiative and aims to develop youth football, fostering tolerance and respect towards different cultures and ethnicities among children around the world. The key values supported and promoted by the project’s participants include friendship, equality, fairness, health, peace, devotion, victory, traditions, and honor.
The project’s geographical scope has expanded and this season, young footballers from Africa and South America are taking part in the project for the first time, with the number of Asian teams increasing.
The overall number of participating countries has grown from 24 last year to 32, four times greater than when the project started. This year, the list of participants includes teams from Algeria, Argentina, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, China, Croatia, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Syria, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Kingdom and Vietnam.
On 25th April the participating countries will celebrate the International Day of Football and Friendship and on 27th and 28th May Milan will host the International Street Soccer Tournament and the Football For Friendship International Children's Forum.
The forum will finish with the awarding of the Nine Values Cup, the prize of the project, to one of the world’s professional football clubs for the utmost commitment to the programme’s values. The participants will visit the 2016 UEFA Champions League Final at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza (San Siro) in Milan after the forum is over.
“The number of participants in the Football For Friendship project and the countries they represent grows every year. We can safely say this season is truly global, as young footballers from the Western Hemisphere are taking part in the project for the first time. Football For Friendship gives teenagers representing various cultures, customs and traditions an excellent opportunity to learn to understand and respect each other despite any and all differences,” said Alexey Miller, chairman, Gazprom management committee.
“The Nine Values Cup awarded by the participants in the Football For Friendship project is a statue of a young footballer holding the Earth in the shape of a football. I think it is a successful representation of the ideas and values that football and sports as a whole promote among youth,” said Franz Beckenbauer, global ambassador of the project.
“I am happy that this year my friends and I will have an opportunity to join the Football For Friendship project, meet our peers from different countries and discuss really important topics. I believe we can change the world and make it better,” said Maher Shaabo, a young participant from Syria.