Gazprom's international children's social programme Football for Friendship (F4F) gathers young players and journalists from around the world and aims to bring cultures together to promote the fundamental values of the sport. Euronews met some of the young talent at the 2019 edition in Madrid.
Makhsumov Bakhtiyor is 13 and comes from Tajikistan. He carries his country's flag anywhere he goes. For our brief interview, he brought a sign showing all his teammates' names. "They need to be represented," he said.
He was also the only interviewee who did not need to be asked questions, as he was a natural spokesman.
"Our federation of football in Tajikistan told us about this amazing international social programme Football for Friendship, by Gazprom¨¨", he told us. "Then they said that we had to go through a test, and that if we passed, we could come to Madrid ... and I did! And now I am here, I am so happy, I am so excited to be here.¨"
He is especially enthusiastic about his new international directory of playmates. "I have so many new friends, and they are all international, they come from all around the world, and plus they play football¨," he said, excitedly.
Is it hard to play with people of different cultures and languages? ¨
"It's hard, but not too hard, and sometimes easy, but we definitely need to respect all of them," Bakhtiyor said.
The teenager loves the sport because it’s fun to play. "It makes our lives more fun, and it can bring you to places like this one, to play in Madrid with international friends and to attend the final of the Champions League."
¨Besides football, the young athlete is mostly interested in the multicultural nature of Gazprom's initiative. "The conversations are so interesting, I always ask them how to say hello in their language."