Watching the 2018 F.I.F.A. World Cup opening ceremony in Russia is an experience that Peniata Soul Maiava and Semisi Fatutoa Semisi will never forget.
The duo returned recently from Russia after participating in Gazprom International Children’s social programme, Football for Friendship (F.4.F.) 2018. Peniata represented Samoa as a young player while Semisi attended as a young journalist. The joined 12-year-old football players and journalists from 211 countries and regions to participate in the eight-day programme.
Speaking to Samoa Observer of their experience, the two Samoans said they had daily activities, participated in camps and learnt the values of friendship, equality, respect, peace, devotion, health, fairness, victory, and honor.
“When we arrived in Russia, we got interviewed by some reporters there. Every morning we all go to breakfast together and then get ready to go to camp and we do activities with each other. We had the Football for Friendship opening ceremony which I was selected to interview representatives from other countries who were participating. At the opening ceremony, all the countries came out with their flags,” they said.
“After that we went straight to our camps for three days and did some activities, which required teamwork to help develop our understanding of each other. There were seven members in each team (and) it included seven different countries: Moldova, Myanmar, Peru, Oman, Pakistan, Spain then Samoa,” said Semisi.
But it was the 2018 F.I.F.A. World Cup opening ceremony that was the highlight for the both of them.
“The highlight was of course the 2018 F.I.F.A. World Cup opening ceremony and match, as I sat down in my mind I thought it was just a dream, because I never thought I would be there. I thought the game was a bit one sided, but the opening ceremony was really entertaining and then the next day we departed, which was a sad and emotional day for everyone,” he added.
Peniata Soul Maiava said: “I made so many friends, learned different languages, skills and techniques in football, different countries and their cultures, different flags that belong to certain countries. And we also shared Samoa’s culture among other countries. For me, it was fun; I liked the kids playing with me, like my team. I learned some Russian words like saying good morning ‘dobroe utro’ and one of the skills I learned was the panna move, in football it is when a player dribbles the ball between the legs of a player from the opposing team.
Peniata said future representatives of Samoa to the Football for Friendship event should train and work hard as it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“Russia is a beautiful country and what caught our eye were the big buildings, you cannot find a house below two stories high, also the unique designs and colors of the buildings were really attractive,” he added.
Football for Friendship is an annual International Children’s social programme organized by Gazprom, an international company supporting global social projects and setting new social policy standards.