As the globe gears up for this year’s World Cup in Russia, a lucky Cambodian youngster will be part of the drama in Moscow themselves, in a worldwide youth competition tied in with FIFA’s football showpiece.
The 6th Gazprom Football for Friendship International Children’s Project has been launched in Cambodia for the first time, and the open draw held earlier this month determined a lucky Cambodian 12-year-old will play as a midfielder alongside a goalkeeper from the US Virgin Islands, defenders from Libya and Sierra Leone, a fellow midfielder from Palestine and a forward from France.
The player will be joined by a budding Cambodian journalist of the same age to cover the program’s events, which will see youngsters from 211 nations and regions formed into 32 teams converge on the Russian capital.
These 32 teams will compete at the Football for Friendship World Championship on June 12, 2018.
To highlight the environmental damage facing the planet, each team is named after an endangered animal, with Cambodia part of Team Angel Shark.
It is expected the two children will be announced over the coming weeks.
‘Football can open doors’
FIFA secretary-general Fatma Samoura said: “We were glad to support this unique initiative from our FIFA partner Gazprom. The forum is a perfect example of how football can be used to open doors for girls and boys from all backgrounds, a mission that FIFA supports actively.”
The teams are organised using what has been termed the “football for friendship” principle, with footballers of different nationalities, genders and physical abilities all playing on one team.
And each “Team of Friendship” will be trained by 14- to 16-year-old football players from different countries.
Media from all over the world will be joining the F4F International Children’s Press Center in covering the events. The Children’s Press Center will be made up of 12-year-old journalists from the 211 participating countries and regions.
Russian energy giant Gazprom is an official partner of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, and the chairman of its board of directors, Viktor Zubkov, said: “The sixth season of the international children’s social program Football for Friendship is officially open.
“This year, the F4F is supported by 211 countries and regions [so] for the very first time, young athletes from all parts of the world where football is played will meet on the same field.
“We live in an age where people all over the world seek to unite behind the principles of equality and respect for each other. The project is a crucial element in this process. Football for Friendship gives that opportunity to everyone.”