A grassroots tournament organised by the Russian Football Union is joining the fight against racism, with the backing of star players including Wesley Sneijder and Dimitar Berbatov.
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Top players including Galatasaray AŞ's Wesley Sneijder, AS Monaco FC's Dimitar Berbatov and Chelsea FC's Branislav Ivanović have got behind the Children's Champions Cup, a grassroots competition organised by the Russian Football Union (RFS) that is spreading the message of anti-racism.
A project supported by Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE), UEFA's core strategic partner in the fight against racism and discrimination, the tournament has involved over 1,000 children from 23 countries. After qualifying rounds played in Belgium, Latvia, Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia, it culminates with a final round to be played in Istanbul from 24-27 August.
"The concept of youth football against racism is fantastic," said FARE executive director Piara Powar. "The participation in this project of such stars as Ivanović and Berbatov will undoubtedly attract the attention of the whole of Europe."
Tournament ambassador Ivanović delivered a message to fans and players, saying: "Football is a game that unites millions, regardless of their attitudes and beliefs, social status and education, gender, age, nationality and religion. Football is about leadership both on the field and beyond, where recent rivals become real friends. Follow the spirit of fair play, respect and give the enemy the right example to their fans. Stop racism together!"
RFS president Nikolai Tolstykh also added his support to the project: "I would like to note the educational role of the Children's Champions Cup which gives an understanding to everyone that football is a game for all, a game of equal opportunities. We strongly support such policies of FIFA and UEFA at all levels of Russian football. I'm confident that this project could be a new step in the development of youth football, enhancing its organisational level and popularising it in the eyes of the world."
Now in its second season, the tournament involves Under-12 teams from clubs whose senior sides are competing in the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League. The six clubs represented in the final round will be Tottenham Hotspur FC, Malmö FF, PAOK FC, FC Shakhtar Donetsk, OFK Beograd and hosts Galatasaray, with the final to be played at the Ali Sami Yen Spor Kompleksi on 27 August.