Russian tournament promotes anti-racism message among young people in Europe

Youngsters from over 20 European countries will come together over the next three months to play against each other in a major tournament and help further a message of inclusion and against racism across the region.

Under the motto 'Play against racism' the Europe-wide tournament Lukoil Childrens Champions Cup, organised by the Russian Fare member Directorate of Sports Programs and Social Projects for the third consecutive year, looks to raise awareness of discrimination through friendly football gatherings among young people.

The opening round of the tournament took place on 16 May in Pravets, Bulgaria, where the junior teams of CSKA Sofia (Bulgaria), Levski Sofia (Bulgaria), Steaua București (Bulgaria) and Dacia Chișinău (Moldova) played against each other.

Former Bulgarian player and 1994 FIFA Balon d'Or Hristo Stoichkov attend the event as an ambassador of the tournament.

Current and former international football stars, such as former Czech midfielder Vladimír Šmicer, the AS Monaco Bulgarian striker Dimitar Berbatov, Serbian national team and Chelsea FC defender Branislav Ivanovic, Galatasaray midfielder Wesley Sneijder and Goran Pandev and Dynamo Moscow Alexei Smertin, have also lent their support to the initiative.

The international stars will act as ambassadors and make appearances at the qualifying rounds of the tournament, helping to promote a message of diversity and against discrimination. As part of the awareness-raising campaign players cards with messages against racism will be widely promoted through social media.

Eight U-12 teams will play the further two group stages in Zagreb and Istanbul, between 04 and 15 June, contesting two out of five places for the final in Moscow, held between 27 and 30 August.

Teams represented at the tournament include Real Madrid (Spain), Qarabach (Azerbaijan), Galatasaray (Turkey), Bunedkor (Uzbekistan) and Dynamo Zagreb (Croatia), among others.

The initiative, supported by Fare, Lukoil and the Russian Football Union, is part of the Directorate of Sports Programs and Social Projects wider anti-discrimination strategy.

Kiril Tereshin, director of Directorate of Sports Programs and Social Projects, said: "[Over the next months] We are going to present several projects looking to fight racism in football, from grassroots projects to major actions, such as flash mobs, with the participation of players and fans of Russian clubs.

"For example, we have developed a special ball with the name 'Play Against Racism', which aims to be a symbol of the world's unity in fighting this problem and which will be first tested by the children at the tournament".

Other action will include the production and promotion of anti-racism videos with players of the Russian Premier League saying 'No to Racism' and eating a banana, the symbol of last year's campaign.

At the UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifyier Russia v Austria on 14 June Directorate of Sports will organise a flash mob against racism.

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