Gazprom, official partner of the UEFA Champions League, has today announced Chelsea Football Club's involvement in their corporate social responsibility project 'Football for Friendship'.
'Football for Friendship' is coming to the UK later this month and is looking to use sport as a way of bringing together boys and girls aged 10 to 16 from across Europe, encouraging children to live their lives through their love of sport. It will culminate in the world's first International Children's Forum for sport on the morning of the UEFA Champions League Final on 25 May in London.
The Forum will be hosted by Gazprom's global ambassador for the scheme, football legend Franz Beckenbauer, and will give the kids involved the chance to quiz him about football and his life experiences in and out of the world of sport.
It is part of the Gazprom for Children programme, which has spent 26.9 billion rubles (around £550 million) on improving sporting facilities for kids since 2007. This includes rebuilding both sports complexes and community sports grounds, engaging coaches and instructors, providing equipment and staging festivals and sports competitions for local kids.
Chelsea FC will be providing a team of kids to take part in the forum from one of our social inclusion programmes, Kickz; a national programme which uses the power of football to target disadvantaged areas.
The Chelsea Foundation runs Kickz programmes in Wandsworth, Kensington and Chelsea, Hammersmith and Fulham and Westminster. The social aims of Kickz mirror those of 'Football for Friendship', which look to create safer, stronger and more respectful communities through the development of young people's potential.
Minister for Sport and Tourism Hugh Robertson said: 'The Football for Friendship scheme is a great opportunity for young people from across Europe to come together through the power of sport. The Kickz programme has been a huge success encouraging sports participation, helping to deliver on social cohesion and changing lives for the better.
'It's great that participants from Westminster Kickz will be a part of Football for Friendship and attend the Champions League Final at Wembley, an experience that will no doubt live long in their memories.'
Gazprom will be flying around 700 children over from Europe to take part in the 'Football for Friendship' Forum in Central London and it will include representatives from the UK, Germany, Russia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Slovenia and Greece. After the excitement of the Forum, Gazprom will then take the participants to the UEFA Champions League Final at Wembley Stadium.
The involvement of the Westminster branch of Kickz in the 'Football for Friendship' project is a great opportunity for the Pimlico-based boys and girls to learn from the hundreds of other like-minded kids from across Europe taking part in the Forum. They will all have a common ground to create friendships around and will all have experienced the problems of growing up in a troubled environment. There will also be teams from two orphanages in Russia taking part in the event so there really is fantastic scope for reaching out to all corners of youth development.
Kickz volunteer Michel Kokonis was thrilled to hear about the opportunity to take some of the Kickz kids to the 'Football for Friendship' Forum:
'The Chelsea FC Foundation operates the Kickz project across many London boroughs and is a scheme designed to provide young people the chance to play football in the evening inside their estates and community.
'Having the chance to send a team of Kickz kids from the Westminster project to the Gazprom 'Football for Friendship' Forum is a fantastic opportunity for them to experience the opportunities football can bring to their daily lives.
'By meeting 700 other children from similar backgrounds from across Europe it will show the kids that they're not alone in the struggles they wake up to every day. It's the chance of a lifetime and something that most kids could only dream of being involved in.'