Two Samoan youngsters for Football for Friendship 2018 in Russia

APIA, SAMOA – 06 MAY 2018 – The 2018 Football for Friendship (F4F) programme is transforming a FIFA World Cup dream into reality for Peniata Soul Maiava and Semisi Semisi, two Samoan youngsters selected to fly to Russia on an all-expenses paid trip to represent Samoa at 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.

Maiava will represent Samoa as a Young Player while Semisi 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 to 16 years, having participated in the programme over the past five years.

“I know my future in football is more than just a game. Playing football not only gives me the opportunity to improve my skills but to meet new people, make new friendships and I am looking forward to joining the F4F,” said Maiava.

Meanwhile, Semisi said: “It’s a dream come true to participate in this opportunity and to represent my country on the world stage. A smile is a smile in any language. Laughter sounds – the same in any language. Smiles and laughter are the key to friendship.”

A total of 32 International Team 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 and16 years, 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. At the end of the programme all F4F participants will attend the opening match of the FIFA World Cup on 14 June 2018 as hosts Russia take on Saudi Arabia at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.

Additionally, more than 5,000 media outlets worldwide will cover the programme, which is considered a unique educational project by the United Nations. The Football for Friendship International Children’s Press centre, consisting of 12-year-old journalists from the 211 countries and regions, will tell their own F4F stories that will be beamed around the world.

This opportunity is the result of Football Federation Samoa’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.”

Football Federation Samoa’s Laupama Solomona added “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and having these two kids from Samoa represent us in the World Cup in Russia is very rewarding and a dream come true. They will represent us well and we are proud of them. Thank you to all the parents, communities and schools for their continuous support.”

Keep up to date with the journey by following the ‘Earth is a Ball’ blog at