Two grassroots tournaments with the objective of uniting youngsters of different faiths and nationalities have been staged in Turkey this autumn, both organised by the Teenagers Football League of Russia (TFL).
Held under the slogan 'Football for Peace', the first event was the 11th edition of the International Children's Champions Cup. Involving teams of Under-12 players from six countries, the five-day competition ended with Galatasaray AŞ emerging as winners following a 1-0 final victory against Chertanovo Moskva.
That tournament was followed by the first Oriental Pearl Festival, with the values of ethnic and religious tolerance being celebrated by the 16 participating sides in Alanya. With the motto 'Football is our Religion' at its core, teams from the U9 to U13 age groups from Russia, Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania took part, with a special fair play prize being handed out.
Created in 1993, the TFL has grown into the largest body for youth football in Russia, organising a number of competitions for players aged between eight and 15 each year. An associate member of the Russian Football Union (RFS), it is aided by over 500 assistants nationwide.
One of its biggest successes has been to act as a springboard for the careers of several players who have reached the top of the professional game. Next year a number of graduates, including Yuri Zhirkov, Alexander Anyukov and Alan Dzagoev, will attend a special ceremony marking the TFL's 20th anniversary.
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