MOSCOW, 27 April 2018. – For the first time in the history of the Gazprom's International Children's social programme Football for Friendship, an official partner of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, the Young Ambassadors, including Players, Journalists and Coaches, will be joined by a Young Referee. Now even more talented boys and girls have the chance to become a part of this global project, spanning 211 countries and regions around the world. Football for Friendship is a project about kids and for kids. They are the key focus of the programme, and enjoy the respect of both their peers and adults.

In the programme's fifth season, one standout Young Referee was Runji Chui from China. Ananja Cambodge from India also made significant contributions in 2017, when as part of her position as the lead Young Journalist of the International Children's Press Center she became inspired after certain official events and published a book about the nine key values of the Football for Friendship. A Young Player from Bolivia, Lucas Sausedo, is an example of determination — inspired by his father, a professional Bolivian footballer, he decided to follow his example, overcome all challenges and dedicate his life to improving his athletic skills.

The programme's rich history, which for the sixth time in a row hosts representatives from new countries and regions attracts more and more young participants every year. Taking into account the growing interest in the Football for Friendship, today the united team of Young Players, Young Journalists and Young Coaches will welcome Young Referee — Bogdan Batalinfrom Russia (14 years old). He was invited to join the programme by the Football for Friendship Organizing Committee.

During the Football for Friendship World Cup, Young Referees together with the adult mentors will work at all 32 matches of international teams of friendship, which will include children of different nationalities, genders as well as physical abilities, making their own unique contributions along the way.

"I'm happy to be a part of the Football for Friendship programme. This is a chance for me to get acquainted with real football professionals and meet kids from different countries! Football unites all of us, and I'm looking forward to the start of the programme in order to show my skills and talent", says Gerardo Penjalvar Bilbao, a Young Referee of the Football for Friendship programme from Cuba, 16 y.o.

"I started training to be a referee at school because I wanted to learn to umpire matches. In the future I'd like to become a professional referee. Participation in the Football for Friendship programme will be a great new experience for me. I wish the best of luck and a good fair game to all the kids! I can be strict and even suspend a player, but I promise to be fair", said Bogdan Batalin, a Young Referee of the Football for Friendship programme from Russia, and a student of the referee school in the Football Federation of Irkutsk, 14 y.o.

"The Young Referee programme is a great initiative and new stage for Football for Friendship. Offering this new role is a logical step for the project, as one of its key goals is to help kids be heard. I am confident it will be helpful and interesting for all participants. While adult referees usually just follow the formal rules, Young Referees can use the opportunity to show adherence to the key values of the Football for Friendship programme, and in turn teach adults something great", notes Gerard Timmers, a Football for Friendship member in the Netherlands and a coach of the VV Alkmaar football team.