From football pitches to online interaction, the international children’s social programme, "Football for Friendship" has given thousands of children from all over the world the opportunity to connect and share their experiences.
The aim of this project, organised by Gazprom, is to unite young generations and promote essential human values whilst raising awareness of important topics, like gender equality in sport and the wellbeing of our planet.
The ninth season of the programme kicked off with an online challenge called “Small steps to save the planet”. This challenge saw young participants from over 200 countries present their contributions to environmental protection via short video clips.
Kinley Deki Yangzom is a young journalist at Football For Friendship. She says that in this current situation "we are realising how much of a great impact we are doing to the environment and how much environment is a big part of this world and of humanity at large".
She thinks that adults believe "children are so small and they can’t do anything" which has made her want to prove them wrong. She strongly believes that "small steps in this world matter because these small steps make a big change".
Football for Friendship's environmental online challenge has also allowed Kinley to teach others and learn from them.
Topics up for discussion
Plastic pollution, water wastage and the use of public transport are some examples of the many topics up for discussion as children from the four corners of the globe took turns to raise environmental awareness. Some, with the help of their parents, have even made their homes more eco-friendly.
This is the case for Miriam Sheahan, another young journalist at Football For Friendship. Her house has a compost, geothermal heating and a big garden where the family grows garlic and apple trees. They also try to use reusable containers instead of plastic bags.
Miriam says that all this is really important because they're part of the upcoming generation, they can really help turn things around.
Raising awareness about endangered animals
Each year, children taking part in the Football for Friendship eWorld Championship name their teams after animal species threatened with extinction.
The likes of “White rhino”, “Chinese alligator” and “Dusky shark” all took part in this year’s online tournament. Althought Team Argali being eventually crowned champions, every participant was a winner: awareness of endangered species was raised and Football for Friendship received yet another GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS title for the most users visiting a virtual stadium.
World Records broken
The programme already had two world records. One for the most nationalities at a football training session and a second for the most users in a video football hangout.
Football for Friendship’s ambassador, Rich Williams, describes the project as "a community, it’s about bringing people together but also letting them take something with them from that time when they all came together as part of the programme".
He doesn't just want children to have fun whilst taking part in its programmes, he wants them to learn and why not also break a world record in the process.
"I’m sure there will be plans for future world records to be broken as well because they are good fun to do and I think they make a bit of a statement and it means that everyone who’s been involved in the programme has something that they’ve been a part of that has been a little bit special", he adds.
With the backing of major sports organisations like UEFA, FIFA and the IOC, Football for Friendship has united over 16 000 participants from 211 countries and regions. The project, which was launched in 2013, has so far amassed over 6 000 000 supporters and is hoping that its message of peace and equality will be echoed by many more in the years to come.