In the run up to the 2018 FIFA World Cup, the Football for Friendship (F4F) programme was held from 8-15 June and brought together young football players aged 12 years from 211 countries and regions. The young footballers were united in 32 International Teams of Friendship and were accompanied by young journalists who were selected to report on the Football for Friendship events.
Thailand joined the programme for the first time this year and was represented by Ittipolchana Kaewsawad and Preechayan Piyachatiwongs, who were selected as the young footballer and young journalist respectively.
Ittipolchana was a part of the “African Elephant” team, joining his 12 year old teammates from Puerto Rico, Andorra, Sao Tome E Principe, Swaziland and Nepal. Ittipolchana put on a stellar performance in his role as a defender by making critical tackles and restricting numerous goals, in the qualifying games. However, the African Elephant Team were just a few goals short of qualifying for the quarter- finals.
Speaking about his experience in Russia, Ittipolchana said, “I am happy to have been given the opportunity to represent my country in the F4F programme in Moscow which has helped me to make a lot of friends from different countries, and discuss, practice and play football with them. I was also given the opportunity to participate in the opening ceremony of the FIFA World Cup which is an experience that I will never forget. This has been an amazing journey and I hope to keep in touch with all my new friends from around the world.”
It was no different for Preechayan who acted as the young journalist and covered all key events on equal terms with the adult reporters. The young ambassador from Bangkok also got a chance to learn from the well-known journalists representing the leading Russian sports media outlets, as a part of their workshops. The young journalists prepared news for renowned international media houses and published daily issues of the children’s Football for Friendship newspaper.
The F4F program consisted of a three day International Friendship Camp in Moscow, for the young ambassadors. The training camp was followed by the final championship that was held on 12th June at the Sapsan Arena Stadium. The Championship which consisted of multi-cultural teams acted as an effective tool in promoting mutual respect, understanding and support among all the participating kids.
The programme ended with the International Children’s Forum during which children shared their experiences and held discussions with their peers, famous footballers and journalists. The forum was addressed by Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, Olga Golodets, legendary Spanish goalkeeper, Iker Casillas and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Gazprom Victor Zubkov among other renowned delegates.