St. Petersburg -  Pakistan young ambassadors excelled and dominated the ‘Football for Friendship’ (F4F) programme, reshaping Pakistan’s image and showing the 64 participating countries the true image of the country.

Pakistan’s young football ambassador M Yousaf Moazzam earned the honour of leading F4F yellow team, which included members of seven other countries, while young football journalist Obaidullah headed the group of football attachés. Both the Pakistani youngsters especially Yusuf got great recognition during this international activity, as all the 64 participants of the programme personally knew these kids, while the Indian or other countries’ kids were known to hardly half of participants.

For Yusuf, a student of class 4 of LGS Johar Town Campus Lahore, it was an experience like none other. He was shortlisted by FIFA-recognised Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) purely on merit, and that’s why he succeeded in winning hundreds of hearts here in Russia.

“My best friends are Victor from Iceland, Carlos from Venezuela, Edgar from Armenia and Jevan from South Korea,” Yusuf said. “We discussed everything about how to play and all. More than that, I enjoyed my stay here. It was great and I will try and remain in touch with the friends, I made here. It was wonderful activity for me, which I can never forget. I am grateful to PFF for selecting men and making me part of this advantageous activity and I look forward to be part of the next F4F programme.”

It was no different for Obaidullah, a student of City School Shalimar Campus Lahore, and part of the young journalists’ team, which covered all key events on equal terms with the adult reporters. Obaid was also shortlisted by the PFF after a series of interviews and tests and that’s why he also excelled in Russia during the F4F programme.

“My best experience here was interviewing all the players and writing about them,” Obaid said. “I made a lot of friends here and I also added them to my Facebook account, which will help me keep in touch with them. It was all because of PFF, who gave me chance to exhibit my prowess at international level.”

Pakistan delegation head Fahad Khan said: “It's an honour for me as part of Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) to become a part of such a huge programme and provide this platform to the young talent in Pakistan. I have extracted more from this event than what I had aimed for. We have reformed Pakistan's image and shown the true image of our country, our people and our culture to the representatives from 64 countries. Most of them want to visit Pakistan now and we would invite them very soon.

“On top of that we have developed close relations with countries like Uruguay, Bolivia, South Africa, Slovenia, Ghana And Iceland. We are in the process of consultations for long-term partnerships with their clubs and federations. So overall, it was an amazing experience. We will build on this to form stronger partnership with football for friendship, who are already interested in doing so themselves and we are also in consultation with them to explore mutually beneficial common grounds to expand it."

Another member of Pakistan delegation Muneer Ahmad Sadhana said: "I would like to thank the FIFA-recognised PFF, as due to their good reputation internationally, Pakistan succeeded in making debut in the F4F programe and I hope we will continue to provide such healthy activities to our youth in future."

The Gazprom F4F project, which is into its fifth year, is aimed at fostering such respect, friendship, equality, fairness and other values towards different cultures and ethnicities from across the world. In the 2017 edition, the number of participating countries had doubled from 32 to 64 and with Pakistan too made its debut. Kids aged 12 to 14, chosen from across the world and were divided into eight international ‘Friendship Teams,” which played a knockout tournament to decide the winner.