Daniel Tiafau Matamaru Ngamata and Amqle Latoya Murare Tuaratini have been selected to fly to Russia on an all-expenses paid trip to represent the Cook Islands 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 standards in relation to social policy.
Taking place in Moscow, Russia on June 8-15 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.
Ngamata will represent the Cook Islands as a football coach while Tuaratini will attend as a young journalist, giving the country a presence ahead of 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 eight-day programme.
In 2018, 147 new countries and regions will take part in the F4F programme, which translates to 3700 people aged between 12 to 16 years old having participated in the programme over the past five years.
“I grew up with a lot of support and encouragement from the people in my village and I like the way football is played,” Ngamata said.
“At the end of the game, we’re one big family filled with love and heart. We need to promote key values such as friendship, and being kind, supportive and respectful throughout the world.”
Meanwhile, Tuaratini said: “I read two books a day but I also love football and its ability to promote peace, which should be spread across the world so people don’t have to live in fear of the sound of bombs dropping.
“If we can work together, peace can truly unite us all.”
A total of 32 International Teams of Friendship will compete at the Football for Friendship World Championship on June 12. 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 2018 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 June 14 as hosts Russia take on Saudi Arabia at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. Additionally, more than 5000 media outlets worldwide will cover the programme, which is considered a unique educational programme by the United Nations. This opportunity is the result of Cook Island Football Association’s global football partnership with Football for Friendship (RUS), Lengo Football Academy (AUS), the Reagan Milstein Foundation (AUS), and Football Music Culture (AUS/NZ).
“For over seven years, the Reagan Milstein Foundation has been building relationships with the Football Associations across the South Pacific,” founder of Reagan Milstein Foundation Kevin Milstein said.
“Now, Football for Friendship, through Lengo Football Academy, have thrown open the doors of opportunity for children across this vast area of the world.”
Cook Island Football Association’s Mii Piri said: “We are extremely excited for our two children who have been selected for this great opportunity to represent the Cook Islands in Russia and for them to have this ultimate football experience.”