Two months after the UEFA EURO 2012 final whistle, Polish host city Wroclaw has staged an event that promoted dialogue and mutual understanding between young people of different countries and cultures.
More than 250 participants from 41 countries gathered for the Eurocamp 2012 tournament in front of the western city's iconic Centennial Hall. The four-a-side competition with mixed-nationality teams was launched at a welcome ceremony attended by representatives from Volunteers4Sport, streetfootballworld, the European Parliament, UEFA – whose delegate was UEFA Executive Committee member and UEFA Fair Play and Social Responsibility Committee chairman Peter Gilliéron – and the City of Wroclaw.
The tournament, played on a small-side pitch with 27 teams, was the highlight of a week-long festival. All matches were played without referees, and the competitors had to agree on fair play rules before each game.
For 14-year-old Elena from Moldova, football was just one feature of Eurocamp 2012. "I'm glad to be here because we have lots of fun, and I like to play football with the boys," she said. "I also made lots of new friends. We're all different but similar at the same time."
"This event is more than a football tournament, it's a celebration of how football unites people across European borders," said Johannes Axster from streetfootballworld – coordinators of the UEFA EURO 2012 Respect Your Health – Euroschools 2012 initiative promoting healthy lifestyles among children and their families, and also recipients of the 2011 UEFA Monaco Charity Award. "We have been working for ten years to strengthen football's role in community and youth development. Eurocamp 2012 brings powerful partners together to celebrate and further expand this idea."
The Wroclaw event, organised by Volunteers4Sport in collaboration with streetfootballworld, was backed by major European partners like the European Parliament, the European Commission and UEFA. Apart from pairing healthy living with football, the festival focused on learning and exchanges across cultural divides and on creating intercultural experiences.
"Eurocamp 2012 is a true European experience for participants. Coming together from across Europe with diverse social backgrounds, the young people unite behind their common passion for football, develop important life skills and grasp the opportunity to shape their own future," said Doris Pack, the European Parliament's chairwoman of the Committee on Culture and Education.
"I am delighted to see the many young people that came to Wroclaw from so many UEFA member countries," said Peter Gilliéron. "Through this sporting, playful exchange Europe came closer together and the pitch was turned into a field of cultures. UEFA believes strongly in the power of football to be used as a bridge for communication between the many diverse European cultures and societies. Respect Your Health – Euroschools 2012 reaches beyond the football pitch as it passes on positive and long-lasting values."
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