Two young Samoans are heading to Russia to rub shoulders with football royalty in the trip of a lifetime.
Peniata Soul Maiava and Semisi Fatutoa Semisi’s dream to watch the F.I.F.A. World Cup has been turned into a reality thanks to the Gazprom International Children’s social programme, Football for Friendship (F.4.F.) 2018.
The Samoan duo leave tomorrow morning for Moscow ahead of the 2018 F.I.F.A. World Cup.
Peniata will represent Samoa as a young player while Semisi will attend as a young journalist, giving the country a chance to attend the World Cup despite the national team failing to qualify for the tournament.
“I know my future in football, so it’s more than just a game. Playing football not only gives me the opportunity to improve my skills but to meet new people, make new friendships and look forward to joining the F.4.F.,” said Peniata.
Semisi said it’s a dream come true to participate in this opportunity and to represent his country on the world stage.
“A smile is a smile in any language. Laughter is the same in any language. Smiles and laughter is the key to friendship,” he added.
They will join 12-year-old football players and journalists from 211 countries and regions to participate in the eight-day programme.
President of Football Federation Samoa, Laupama Solomona said this is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
“It’s very rewarding and a dream coming true, representing us well and we are proud of them.
We thank all the parents, communities and schools for their continuous support,” he said.
A total of 147 new countries and regions will take part in the F.4.F., which translates to 3,700 people aged between 12 to 16 years, having participated in the programme over the past five years.
The two chaperones for the 11 days trip is Lynetta Laumea-Edward, who is the Social Responsibility Project Manager, and Laauli Soata Utai, who is the Just Play Technical Coordinator.
F.4.F. is an annual International Children’s social programme organized by Gazprom, an international company supporting global social projects and setting new social policy standards.
A total of 32 International Team of Friendship will compete at the Football for Friendship World Championship on 12 June, 2018.
In the days leading up to the tournament, each player will be trained by young coaches who are football players ranging between 14 and 16 years, from various countries.
The championship and training sessions will form the majority of the programme in addition to the International Football for Friendship Children’s Forum.
The forum will see participants discussing how to promote the programme’s core values of friendship, equality, fairness, health, peace, devotion, victory, traditions and honor.
At the end of the programme, all F.4.F. participants will attend the opening match of the F.I.F.A. World Cup on 14 June, 2018 as hosts Russia take on Saudi Arabia at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.
Additionally, more than 5,000 media outlets worldwide will cover the programme, which is considered a unique educational project by the United Nations.
The Football for Friendship International Children’s Press center, consisting of 12-year-old journalists from the 211 countries and regions will tell their own F.4.F. stories that will be beamed around the world.
The opportunity offered to Semisi and Peniata is the result of Football Federation Samoa’s global football partnership with Football for Friendship programme, Lengo Football Academy, Reagan Milstein Foundation and Football Music Culture.
Kevin Milstein, the founder of Reagan Milstein Foundation, said for over seven years, they have been building relationships with the football associations across the South Pacific.
“Now, Football for Friendship, through Lengo Football Academy, has opened the doors of opportunity for children across this vast area of the world,” he said.
The selection of the participants were based on the criteria sent by Gazprom, which specified eligibility in the age of 12 (born from April 2005 until September 2006) inclusive for both genders and children with disabilities who play football, but especially speak the English language.
Another requirement is a signed consent form from parents, not only that but confirmation of participation in the programme activities.
The chosen young player must have a goal of being a future professional player.
The selected young journalists must have interest for both journalism and football.