The International Day of Football and Friendship was on April 25 celebrated in over 200 cities around the world with special events to promote friendship, mutual respect and healthy living. Tens of thousands of children and adults are participating in friendly matches, open training sessions, flash mobs and sporting events.
On this day, everyone who shares such important human values as equality, respect for different cultures and peaceful coexistence ties a blue-and-green friendship bracelet on their wrist as a symbol of the Gazprom's International Children's social Programme Football for Friendship.
The blue thread stands for a peaceful sky, and the green one is a football field open to everyone. The participants have been supported by famous footballers, coaches, television hosts, actors and members of government agencies all over the world.
In Brazil, a reception dedicated to the International Day of Football and Friendship was held at the Russian Embassy, where young programme members presented friendship bracelets to the Ambassadors of 27 Latin American countries.
In Algeria, young sportsmen held a spring cleaning at one of the largest municipal football stadiums to pay respect to the Football for Friendship's key values, followed by two friendly matches between local children and the programme's Young Ambassadors.
Senegal, which took part in the programme for the first time this year, held a press conference featuring a legend of Senegalese football, Amara Traoré, as well as officials from the country's Ministry of Sport.
In Kazakhstan, the holiday coincided with the Day of Kazakhstani Football. On this festive day, an open match of the legendary Kairat football club was held, and the famous footballers got friendship bracelets.
In Serbia, a TV programme dedicated to the International Day of Football and Friendship was aired, with famous actor and host Milan Kalinic, a big fan of Crvena Zvezd FC, presenting young Serbian members of the project.
In South Africa, the youth football academy Young Bafana held a friendly beach football match, and before that, a golf competition – after all, real friendship is possible in any sport.
Talented children from all over the world are participating in the new season of the Football for Friendship programme. For instance, Yazan Taha, 12, a Young Journalist, popular blogger and football co-commentator from Syria, became a member of the International Children's Press Center.
One of the Young Coaches is Sofia Bazhenova, a Russian football player with the girls' junior team U-16, winner of the Russian Futsal Championship. Among the Young Footballers in the programme is Poadey Sébastien from New Caledonia, one of the pearls of Oceania, who has played football since he was four and is one of the youngest players in his national team, Stade de Koniambo Football Club.
"This year I am very lucky to have the chance to participate in the Football for Friendship programme. Their core values mean a lot to me, especially equality, fairness and victory. No one can live in harmony without sharing them! I’m happy that soon I will see Russia for the first time, and there I will get acquainted with new friends and will develop my skills. It is a great honor and responsibility for me to represent my country during the programme. I am excited," said Bennett Wehibe, a Young Ambassador of Football for Friendship from the USA.
"Football is my passion from childhood! I cannot imagine my life without sports and my friends. I'm sure that thanks to the Football for Friendship programme I will make one more step on the way to my dream of becoming a professional footballer," added Swan Drame, a Young Ambassador of Football for Friendship from France.
"I believe that football unites wide variety of people, because there are no limits for real friendship, the main thing is kindness and tenderness. I really want to become a famous football player so that my country could be proud of me," Jadidi Meuuo Ndombuki, a Young Ambassador of Football for Friendship from Kenya shared his emotions.
"It is wonderful that the names of the Young Ambassadors of the programme's new season were announced today [April 25], on International Day of Football and Friendship. I can say that the players from Tanzania are eager to share their excitement about their participation in the project with children from different countries. I wholeheartedly wish all the young sportspeople good luck and an experience of a lifetime in Moscow," said Emanuel Saakai, CEO of the Tanzanian academy, Lengo Football Academy and Football for Friendship coordinator in Tanzania.