EU teaches displaced children to play football

In April-May, over 4,000 boys and girls from eastern and southern Ukraine played football, talked to police and psychologists. The EU’s Open Fun Football Schools project helps internally displaced persons to find friends in host communities. Learn how this was happening in Starobilsk, Luhansk region.

Today, children in Eastern Ukraine, perhaps, like nowhere else in the regions of the country, have faced the reality brought by Russian aggression. Forced to leave their homes together with their parents or stay close to the line of demarcation, they acutely feel everything that is happening around them. And the more interesting arrangements and events in the life of the growing generation, the more children are involved in a civilized society, the greater the chances that they will grow to be the citizens oriented towards the European values.

In March of this year, the delegation of the European Union to Ukraine launched the all-Ukrainian communication campaign “Moving Forward Together”.

We launched a nationwide communication campaign to demonstrate the benefits of Ukraine-EU cooperation for Ukrainians already today. We want the citizens of this country to know about the EU support and take advantage of the opportunities that our projects, for example, provide to youth, business or cultural and educational institutions. In partnership with the Ukrainian government, such cooperation will lead to positive changes and improve the lives of Ukrainian citizens,” said the Head of the EU Delegation to Ukraine, Ambassador Hugues Mingarelli.


Football festivals: Start …

Schoolchildren of Luhansk region were among the first to start feeling the support of the new EU campaign. This is the project “Open Fun Football Schools”, which is implemented jointly with the Football Federation of Ukraine. The project is realized in the format of the festival; its goal is the reconciliation, social integration, development of peace and protection of children in Ukraine, including from among the internally displaced persons.


This year, about 7 thousand children and more than 500 volunteers will take part in the festival. The project participants will receive more than 2,000 footballs, more than 500 textbooks as well as more than 500 sports suits for teachers. Each child will receive a branded T-shirt, and the schools participating in the project will be given a wide range of football equipment (cones, disk cones, bibs, ball nets, hoops, ropes),” said First Vice President of FFU Kostiuchenko. In his opinion, the festival “Open Fun Football Schools” is the basis for the development of mass football in Ukraine.

The organizers carefully prepared for the events. At the end of March, training of volunteers involved in the “Open Fun Football Schools” took place in Zaporizhzhia directly on sites. More than 200 participants took part in the seminars. Volunteer groups, in addition to physical education teachers and coaches of children, also included school psychologists and police officers who later rally children during direct festivals, teach their rules of conduct in life in general and in stadiums in particular.


The head coach of Luhansk Zorya Yurii Vernidub also took part in the project, coming to support volunteers in Zaporizhzhia. “I want to thank the Football Federation of Ukraine for this important program that helps our children and at the same time gives new interesting knowledge for football professionals and volunteers,” said the coach of the Luhansk Zorya.


… And implementation

Last week, the project was specifically realized in Luhansk region, in particular in the city of Starobilsk. A real sports festival took place at the facility of the sports stadium Kolos, namely the children’s social festival “Open Fun Football Schools”.

As the speakers noted, it is these children’s festivals that make it possible to popularize football and encourage young people to play sports. In addition, such events are educational, help prevent child conflicts and instill a healthy lifestyle.

The event was attended by approximately 200 pupils from 12 secondary schools in Starobilsk raion, four physical education teachers who passed training and studying in Zaporizhzhia.


The football field was divided into separate sectors, in each of which a team of schoolchildren was engaged in certain elements of the game in different kinds of sport. In the stadium, children participated in relay races and competitions.


It all also included the information relevant for our region. Police officers not only had an interesting lesson on road safety with the children, but also demonstrated ammunition and reminded the children of the rules for handling explosive items.


As a result, pupils of the following educational institutions were the winners of the competition:

  • I place – Chmyrivka Gymnasium School
  • II place – Baidivka Secondary School
  • III place – Shulhynka Secondary School
  • IV place – Starobilsk Gymnasium
  • V place – Kuriachivka Secondary School
  • VI place – Podhorivka Secondary School

Colonel Dmytro Kashuta, addressing the audience, noted: “Let your sports achievements grow. The police always keep pace with the younger generation, supporting your achievements. You will replace us, we believe in you,” Dmytro Kashuta emphasized, welcoming all schoolchildren to the sporting event.

Each participant of the festival was given a T-shirt, and the winners received sweet gifts.

Next week, a similar festival should take place in another city of Luhansk region, namely Svatovo.


The future is for European values

Indeed, it is still a long was for the pupils of Eastern Ukraine to pass in order to achieve the standards of the physical training lessons in Germany, where children have the opportunity to practice the chosen favourite sport almost professionally. But it all starts out small.

There is no doubt that during the Open Fun Football School schoolchildren of Starobilsk raion received a lot of positive impressions and they will remember it for a long time. A joyful holiday, communication, new information, gifts will be remembered by them for a long time.

But the main thing is that the love of sport, the skills of civilized behaviour in stadiums, and simply the choice of a healthy lifestyle are human values ​​that will definitely bring together the maturing citizens of Ukraine and the European Union.

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