The world’s biggest sporting event is on; the much awaited 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia that kicked off on June 14. Along the sidelines, the Gazprom Football for Friendship (F4F) in Moscow, Russia took place from June 8-15, bringing together young football players and young journalists 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.
Bhutan joined the program for the first time and was represented by two students, Rigzin Tenzin, 12, from Gelephu and Kinley Deki Yangzom, 12, from Lobesa Lower Secondary School, Punakha.
Rigzin played the goalkeeper in the “King Cobra” team, along with his 12 year old teammates from Montenegro, Netherlands, Djibouti, Guam and Namibia whereas Kinley Deki Yangzom who acted as a young journalist covered all key events on equal terms with the adult reporters.
Speaking about his experience in Russia, Rigzin Tenzin said: “I am happy to have been given the opportunity to represent my country in the Football for Friendship program in Moscow.”
Rigzin Tenzin also said the program has helped me 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” he said.
On June 14, Rigzin Tenzin got the unique opportunity to be a part of the opening ceremony of the FIFA World Cup as Bhutan’s flag bearer. The young ambassadors also got to watch the opening match between Russia and Saudi Arabia at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.
Kinley Deki Yangzom, who acted as the young journalist said the opportunity gave her a chance to learn from the well-known journalists representing the leading Russian sports media outlets, as a part of workshops.
She also added learning a new thing every day is amazing and meeting new people from different backgrounds and knowing about their culture and traditions has been a wonderful journey and she would cherish the memory throughout her life.
She said during her stay in Russia, she learned how to prepare 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 June 12 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 program 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 Zubkovamong other renowned delegates.
The President of Bhutan Football Federation, Ugen Tsechup that they are delighted to have participated in the Football for Friendship Program through Bhutan’s young ambassadors, Rigzin Tenzin and Kinley Deki Yangzom. “It is our constant endeavor to use football as a tool to instill core values, break barriers and promote integration among children, which coincides with the key values endorsed by the F4F Programme,” he said.
The President also said he is positive that the kids will act as ambassadors of all the important lessons and fundamental human values that they have learnt at the program and spread it among their friends and family in Bhutan.
Tshering from Thimphu