8 December 2016

Last month was an exciting time for the Open Fun Football Schools (OFFS) programme in the Ukraine. Ukrainian national team coach and former Chelsea, AC Milan and Ukraine star Andriy Shevchenko attended a special ceremony for around 200 internally displaced children in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv.

 

The visit was in the context of the first Ukrainian national team match in Kharkhiv since the outbreak of fighting Eastern Ukraine in 2014, which was played against Serbia. The children’s festivities took place before the match and brought internally displaced persons from the Donbass region together with local communities through sport – a core objective of the OFFS programme. The event also gave the participating boys and girls a chance to play with Ukrainian national team players such as Oleksander Kucher and Victor Kovalenko at the Kharkiv Gymnazium.

 

The Open Fun Football Schools programme is supported by the GIZ on behalf of the German Federal Government. Its activities are taking place in the three Eastern regions of Kharkiv, Dnipropetrovsk and Zaporizhia. The project’s aim is to mobilise and connect people across divides and to facilitate social activities that help stimulate social integration, equality and cohesion.

 

The Ukrainian Football Federation’s vice-president, Vadym Kostuchenko, opened the activities stating that “international football has returned to this city!”. Andriy Shevchenko invited participants to come to the match by stating, “this is a particular moment for Kharkiv city. It is a big step that the national team can play on such a fantastic stadium with the support of Kharkiv fans, and it’s an improvement for the region to be able to host matches of such stature. We thus invite everyone to come and support your team!”

 

Following the opening festivities, the coaches and players signed autographs and took photos with the young and very excited fans. To their delight, the representatives of the national team distributed football equipment and footballs as a token of appreciation and support for the project in the region. The presence of Ukrainian football stars past and present was an inspiration for young people still coming to terms with the upheaval caused by the Ukrainian conflict. The event underlined the continued efforts of social integration and international cooperation through football across the country. 

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