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Students unite in Football and Friendship

**Get all the UPDATES & videos from our Australian Team in Moscow below.

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This story features Emanuel Saakai, CEO and Head Coach of Lengo Football Academy who speaks about the Australian Football For Friendship (F4F) delegation and the opportunity that has been created for Luca Durso (Rowville Secondary College) and Noah Borg (Overnewton Anglican Community College) to attend the F4F program and FIFA World Cup celebrations in Moscow.

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Rowville Sports Academy student-athlete to fly the flag at the 2018 FIFA World Cup

The 2018 Football for Friendship (F4F) programme is transforming a FIFA World Cup dream into reality for our Year 7 student Luca Durso who has been selected to fly to Russia to represent Australia at the F4F programme.

Taking place in Moscow on 8-15 June ahead of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, F4F is an annual International Children’s social programme organised by Gazprom, an international company supporting global social projects and setting new standards in relation to social policy. One of the experiences includes a role in the opening ceremony of the 2018 FIFA World Cup and tickets to the opening match, Russia vs Saudi Arabia.

Durso will represent Australia as a Player giving the country even more presence ahead of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. He will join other 12-year-old football players and journalists from 211 countries and regions to participate in the 8-day programme.

Luca says “I am passionate about football and would love to play for the Socceroos one day. It is a dream to represent Australia and visit Russia to see the World Cup.”

Luca also plays for Melbourne City Football Club’s Under 14 team. He was scouted last year and had to try out and play with the team where he received a place and played for the Under 14’s as a 12 year old. Luca trains 5 nights a week and plays games on Sundays. His favourite thing about playing for Melbourne City is his excellent coaches who are helping him develop his skills. He hopes to one day play for their senior team.

The opportunity came about because of Ian Greener’s (Head Coach – RSA) relationship with Lengo Football Academy. Lengo are partners of Football for Friendship in Russia and are responsible for organising 12 countries in this region to attend the event.

Year 7 students from Rowville Sports Academy and Overnewton College came together on April 30 to take part in a small-sided tournament based on the 2018 Gazprom Football for Friendship (F4F) programme format. Held at Rowville Secondary College, students from the two Colleges united in ‘teams of friendship’ with 3 students from each school combining to form ‘teams of friendship’, named after teams competing in the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

In June, 211 countries will take part in this global initiative, including Luca Durso (RSA) and Noah Borg (Overnewton), who will not only be representing Rowville and Overnewton in Moscow, but be the two selected ambassadors for Australia.

Rowville Head Coach and event convener, Ian Greener, introduced the dual coloured ‘friendship bracelet’ and shared its significance.

“When you wear this Friendship bracelet on your wrist, you are showing your willingness to follow the principles of this movement: friendship, equality, fairness, health, peace, devotion, victory, traditions and honour! These principles are not only for the football field. Feel free to follow them anywhere, anytime! Share a bracelet with a friend and start the race to peace, equality and fairness.”

The students exchanged bracelets, met their new teammates and began the round-robin competition. In the end, team Russia defeated Australia in the final.

Emanuel Saakai, Founder, CEO and Head Coach of Lengo Football Academy thanked all of the students for taking part in this event and encouraged the children to keep enjoying their football and working towards their fullest potential.

Football for Friendship International Children’s Tournament in Moscow

Update from our Australian Football For Friendship team in Moscow!

Sunday 10th June

We are having an incredible, almost surreal time here as ‘the Aussies’ are a big hit and we are all getting lots of attention. Emanuel Saakai, Founder, CEO and Head Coach of Lengo Football Academy is a hero here and the boys (Luca & Noah) mini superstars. Upon arrival at the hotel, after 24 hours of travel, we were greeted by almost a dozen ‘paparazzi’ who boarded our team bus to capture our arrival. Soon after, Noah was whisked into the media room as they had been anticipating his arrival He was chosen to be THE YOUNG JOURNALIST to feature in the opening programme digest, an honour which was given to Noah ahead of 210 others.

Luca Durso is kicking huge goals. He has been named ‘captain’ of the African Wild Dog team and carried the Australian flag in the Football For Friendships Opening Ceremony. The boys have exchanged koala toys for babushka dolls with the Russian kids who are in their group!

This was shared by Nikki Little, Head of Sport, Overnewton – Australian Delegation F4F.

We are changing the world

Monday 11th June

Read this inspiring article on the Pre-World Cup Football For Friendship program in Moscow and why it is changing world….

Read snippet: 

“Football-loving children from Australia, New Zealand and almost a dozen Pacific Islands nations were among those from an unprecedented 211 countries for a global sporting event, who came together at a suburban sports field in Moscow, tasked with nothing less than “changing the world”.

Their mere presence there for the pre-World Cup Football For Friendship Children’s Social Programme represented a step towards that lofty goal.”

Click here to read the full article >>

Football for Friendship World Championship

Wednesday 13th June

Luca & Noah have concluded their 3-day ‘Friendship Camp’ and yesterday was the Football for Friendship World Championship. Team Chimpanzee won. Our team, the African Wild Dogs, were knocked out of the first stage with 2-1 (loss), 2-2 (draw) and 3-2 (loss). Our Young Player, Luca Durso, was the captain and stand-out player for his team. He kicked 4 goals for the African Wild Dogs (4 out of the 5 scored goals in total). Luca received lots of attention from other countries for his good play, leadership and excellent sportsmanship. For a full report on the African Wild Dogs click here >>

Today is the children’s forum and we have an easy morning for souvenir and outlet shopping. We have learned that the ‘Young Players’ will have the role in the World Cup Opening Ceremony. It involves waving a flag from a position in the stands. Luca had to get up at 5am (after 4 hours sleep!) for a 7-hour rehearsal.

This was shared by Nikki Little, Head of Sport, Overnewton – Australian Delegation F4F.

World Cup Opening Ceremony

Thursday 14th June 

Watch this video of the children at the 2018 World Cup Ceremony.

We are heading home!

Saturday 16th June & Sunday 17th June 

What a ride! The Football for Friendship delegations have started to arrive home from an unbelievable 8 days. The 12 countries (Australia, New Zealand, Tanzania, Tonga, Samoa, American Samoa, Vanuatu, Fiji, Tahiti, New Caledonia, Solomon Islands and Cook Islands) that Lengo Football Academy organised to attend the Football For Friendship program had a life changing experience in Moscow. May you continue to work towards a more peaceful, connected and united world.  Together, we are changing the world!

Gallery – F4F at the FIFA World Cup in Moscow

Gallery – Football For Friendship Match