Foundation youngsters enjoy European adventure

The youngsters traveled to Milan to compete in the international Football for Friendship forum
  • Representatives for the Foundation traveled to the San Siro in Milan, Italy for the tournament
  • This year's tournament, which promotes co-operation and raises cultural awareness, was the fourth such event
  • The young Hammers reached the Round of 16 before being knocked out

West Ham United Foundation’s handpicked youngsters from its Premier League Kicks programme represented the UK at the fourth international Football for Friendship forum in Milan.

The group travelled to Italy on the weekend of the UEFA Champions League final and the event featured a total of 32 countries from Asia, Africa, Europe and South America.

Teams gathered for a spectacular opening ceremony, which demonstrated each of the participating nation’s pride and confidence as they were introduced.

It also served as a perfect illustration of the enormity of the event as the 600 participants had the opportunity to size up the opposing teams for the first time.

Once the tournament got underway the young Hammers were narrowly defeated by Slovenian side FC Maribor in the Round of 16.

While the Foundation side demonstrated great individual ability, the results failed to reflect their performances.  

However, despite this frustrating defeat, the team was in high spirits as they acknowledged their weaknesses and gained an appreciation of the different styles of football from around the world.
The tournament acted as a gateway to developing tolerance towards other cultures, while the competition as a whole proved a perfect platform which, despite the different language barriers, football became a means of communication.

As the competition progressed, a fierce competitive atmosphere soon dissipated as an air of camaraderie and sportsmanship took hold.

The fourth season of the Football for Friendship international children’s project came to a brilliant conclusion as the participants got an exclusive opportunity to have a Q&A session with legendary football icon Franz Beckenbauer during a flamboyant closing ceremony full of wonderful dance and musical performances which preceded the final game between Hungary and Slovenia.

“We went into this tournament with only one goal in mind, which was to win it,” said Elliot Wavita, goalkeeper of the young West Ham side.

“Although we were disappointed with the overall outcome, I think the team did well and it was a fantastic experience meeting young footballers from all over globe and making friends along the way which for me was the highlight of this whole experience.

“Playing with these people showed me what I lacked and I am sure the others feel the same way.”
Battles were lost, hearts were broken but bonds were made, friendships were created and this is the fundamental aim of this Football for Friendship forum.