The ‘Eight Flags Junior Cup’

Anastasia Bobysheva, photography by Anastasia Papushina and Maria Frolova 

On the 27th of May, on a surprisingly sunny and warm day (as it has turned out, one of the last this ‘summer!’), the first international soccer tournament – The ‘Eight Flags Junior Cup’ (EFJC) was held in Khimki. As it was held just ahead of the International Day for Protection of Children and the FIFA event, the teams were composed of children representing the eight participating countries of the upcoming Confederations Cup: Russia, Australia, Cameroon, Chili, Germany, Mexico, New Zealand and Portugal. EFJC was a result of a joint effort between the Khimki administration and seven Embassies.

A serious approach was taken to the Opening Ceremony, which started with all teams entering the stadium following their flags. Several Ambassadors and representatives of Khimki administration greeted the participants and spectators with words of support to their teams. Young gymnasts amazed everyone with a pre-game entertainment performance. Video messages were shown on the big screen from famous football players including Vidal from Chile and Chicharito from Mexico (https://yadi.sk/i/mdgVU9b03JdRRS?force_show=1). They shared experiences from their grassroots careers and also expressed their excitement about travelling to Russia to participate in the upcoming Confederations Cup.

Each group match started with the national anthems of each country and some of the matches were refereed by the ex-FIFA world renowned referee Walter Eschweiler. Following the games, each team had photos taken with VIP guests.Results:

The Bronze medal went to the German team represented by the German School Moscow. Silver to Mexico, represented by the Cervantes school, who also had the loudest supporters! The Gold medal went to team New Zealand represented by the Anglo-American school. Their prizes included medals, the Eight Flags Cup and a match replica confederations cup football signed by the Russian national team. They also received the award for best striker and best goalkeeper in the tournament, as did a young player from the Cameroon team. The Deputy Head of Mission of the New Zealand Embassy, Ms Cecilia Warren, promised to pass the news of victory to the New Zealand men’s senior team.Although there were only three winning places, each player received a participation certificate along with a souvenir bag from all the Embassies and Khimki administration.

Some of the teams may not have achieved their desired results as it was their first time playing football. Members of the Australian team only met for the first time just two weeks before the tournament during training sessions held by Martin Houldsworth at the facilities of the International School of Moscow. So although the children involved are still learning the game and developing football skills, the tournament was a great insight into how professional teams prepare and compete in major tournaments. They certainly looked the part with official team uniforms supplied by the Football Federation of Australia. Their supporters were not forgotten — Australian and the Socceroos flags given out to help cheer the team on.EFJC helped some children find their favourite sport and inspired them to join football clubs. The tournament was about participation, creating friendships and teaching participants to understand each other better. Perhaps that is why one of the Canadian kids who played for the winning team and was asked where he was from replied: “Today I am from New Zealand”.