The 2018 Football for Friendship (F4F) programme is transforming a FIFA World Cup dream into reality for Kalisitaine ‘Ofa He Lotu Mo’oni Seau and Anita Loreta Hufanga, two Tongan youngsters selected to fly to Russia on an all-expenses paid trip to represent Tonga at the F4F programme. F4F is an annual International Children’s social programme, organized by Gazprom, an international company supporting global social projects and setting new social policy standards.
Taking place in Moscow, Russia on 8-15 June ahead of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, the aim of the programme is to promote essential values embodied by football with the younger generation such as respect for other cultures and nationalities as well as equality.
Mr. Seau will represent Tonga as a Young Player while Ms. Hufanga will attend as a Young Journalist, giving the country a chance to attend the FIFA World Cup despite the national team failing to qualify for the tournament. They will join 12-year-old football players and journalists from 211 countries and regions to participate in the 8-day programme. In 2018, 147 new countries and regions will take part in the F4F programme, which translates to 3,700
people aged between 12 and 16 years old, having participated in the programme over the past five years.
“Football is a way to build friendship and it’s how I learnt respect and to accept everyone despite their race, gender and other differences. I’m looking forward to this opportunity as it’s an outstanding opportunity to journey outside the comfort of home and to continue my career as a young footballer,” said Mr. Seau.
Meanwhile, Ms. Hufanga said: “Growing up seeing my grandfather and father playing football drew me to football. Being a girl doesn’t stop me from doing anything. I believe girls should have the same opportunities to show their capabilities in sport and F4F will allow me to learn about other cultures and people. It will be my first experience outside of my home country.”
A total of 32 International Teams 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 to 16 years of age 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 honour. The programme concludes with all F4F participants attending the opening match of the FIFA World Cup on 14 June 2018 as hosts Russia take on Saudi Arabia at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.
This opportunity is the result of Tonga Football Association’s global football partnership with Football For Friendship programme (RUS), Lengo Football Academy (AUS), Reagan Milstein Foundation (AUS) and Football Music Culture (AUS/NZ).Kevin Milstein, the founder of Reagan Milstein Foundation, said: “For over seven years, the Reagan Milstein Foundation has been
building relationships with the Football Associations across the South Pacific. Now, Football for
Friendship, through Lengo Football Academy, have thrown open the doors of opportunity for children across this vast area of the world.”
Tonga Football Association’s Adelaide Tu’ivailala, added: “These two kids put out their best on and off the field, and now they’ve received the best reward ever in their lives to represent our nation in the biggest sporting event in the globe, the FIFA World Cup, which is about to kick off in Russia.’’
Palu ‘Uhatahi Tu’amoheloa the Just Play Project Manager is also travelling with Lui Muavesi the Just Play Co-ordinator to accompany Seau and Hufanga to Moscow. They are scheduled to depart Tonga on the 5th of June 2018.