Football opens hearts in Ukraine

Oleksandr Fomichov left behind his business and some of his family following unrest in his native Donetsk. Now he’s using “the power of football” to improve the lives of his community.

A new start through football

A difficult upbringing and time in prison set Jules, from the Netherlands, on a negative path in life. But thanks to the power of football, and his ability to mentor and inspire young people facing similar challenges, his future looks much brighter.

Inclusion in action at the #UELfinal

Grassroots stars from the first year of the #EqualGame campaign were joined by stars from the men’s and women’s game for a very special match before the UEFA Europa League final.

What is Equal Game?

  • European football is more diverse and multi-cultural than ever.
  • Our competitions and grassroots projects feature players and fans from all backgrounds.
  • And for UEFA it is important to communicate that football is for all.
  • Respect is a social responsibility initiative launched in 2008.
  • For the last 4 years, this initiative has featured the message of No To Racism.
  • UEFA is now evolving this message to promote inclusion, diversity and accessibility across not only ethnicity but also gender, age, sexual orientation, all abilities, and social backgrounds.
  • The new campaign gives all football lovers in Europe a voice to share what football means to them.
  • The new respect campaign is called #EqualGame
  • Because everyone is entitled to enjoy football. No matter who you are, where you’re from or how you play.
  • On the pitch we’re all the same.

My Game

Alexandra Popp (footballer, Germany): We’re on a platform which is very mediatised, us as well as men’s football. It’s especially up to us, as role models, to go public and continue with things which are more important than playing football and running after a ball. There are so many things which are much more valuable in life. One example of it is “No to racism”. We 100% support that. That’s very, very important to us.

Florian Thauvin (footballer, France): Leaving your country at 22 and adapting to a new culture, new language, different food, a new league - it’s not easy. But these are the things that make you grow and mature. Things are only going well for me now because I went through this difficult period in England which taught me things and helped me grow. All experiences teach you new things.

Kostas Manolas (footballer, Greece): When you’re a personality known all around the world, you have to be an example, because the kids look at you as an idol. Therefore, you always have to be an example for them, with humility, both on and off the pitch. They want to be like you and you have to set an example.

İlkay Gündoğan (footballer, Germany): What I love most about football is that it doesn’t matter what level you’re at, whether it’s professional or not, you can still stand on the pitch and play and forget about all the problems you have in your daily life. It’s about performance, fulfilling your responsibilities, and having fun playing. And I’ve been having fun ever since I was a little kid and I don’t want to ever lose that. And that’s why I love football so much and why it’s so important to me.

Reynald Pedros (coach, France): The emotions, the team. As a player, I couldn’t do without my team-mates. This was very important to me. If I got to be a good football player, a large share of the credit certainly goes to my team-mates. The team is vital to me. It’s through the team that individual quality is expressed. Football is about emotion, winning, sharing experiences - all of these things.

Trent Alexander-Arnold (footballer, England): There were times when I’d play from about nine in the morning to about nine at night on the summer days when you can. It was always better when the summer came around because in winter you have to stop playing about five o’clock when it goes dark and you can’t really see anymore, but when it’s summer you stay up later. You can get up earlier and you stay out later and you can get that bit more football in. It brings a smile to your face.

Diego Simeone (manager, Argentina): The culture, the ability to adapt yourself, to integrate within that new society you live in. [You also need] to learn, to listen, to watch… And, above all, [you need] to be yourself. It doesn’t matter which country you come from, it’s becoming more and more extraordinary to meet normal people nowadays. And I consider myself a normal guy.

Ada Hegerberg (footballer, Norway): I think what I love the most about football is that it’s for everyone. It’s as simple as that. It’s so simple to have a ball and go out and play with your friends, whether you’re a boy or a girl, young or old. It’s so global and it’s easily accessible for everyone. Everyone can dream and have big dreams of becoming a football player, so that’s the beautiful part of it and that’s what I try to keep in mind as well: That I’m really privileged to be in the position that I am, I’ve worked hard for it, of course, but try to enjoy it as much as possible as well. There are hundreds of thousands of others that wish they were in our position.

Alessandro Del Piero (former player, Italy): Being able to play football is a great privilege at this level, because you travel so much, meet so many people and so many different characters and encounter so many different ways of life, languages and countries, so I’m very grateful to this sport, in particular for this aspect of it, which is extraordinary. I’m delighted to be able to say this because it’s something I understand much more than when I was young.

Jürgen Klopp (coach, Germany): You don’t even have to be smart to understand that we are all the same, the game shows you that immediately. You sit in the same dressing room, you go out on the pitch, you play together and if you don’t pass to your mate from the same city, it makes no sense. If you don’t pass to your mate from another country, it makes no sense. The game doesn’t work like that; it only works if you really play together, and that’s how football should be and how the world should be as well, but sometimes, the world especially, can still improve.

And many more…

Football stories

Follow Ljubomir's path to recovery through football after a life-changing accident.

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Everyone can play

De Bruyne’s call to Afghanistan

To mark UEFA’s annual donation to the ICRC, UEFA Team of the Year selection Kevin de Bruyne made a special call to a physical rehabilitation centre for landmine victims in Afghanistan.

Lewandowski And Co support Amputee Football

The Polish FA and stars of the national team gave a huge boost to amputee football in their country by taking part in a special penalty shootout challenge.

“Shield of Honor”- Israeli-hope in sport

The Shield of Honor was designed to incentivise fans and club owners to better understand social issues, and to work together on eradicating racism and violence.

Nobody Offside

Every year, the Royal Belgian Football Association organises the Football kick-off, the biggest national football tournament for people with physical and/or mental disabilities. This one-day tournament brings together more than 65 teams from all walks of life. The teams wear the jerseys of the first national team division while famous referees and coaches come for the day to support to these avid football talents.

#EqualGame in Russia

The Russian national team welcomed ten children to their training session as part of a therapeutic sport programme.

FIGC assists migrants to integrate in Italy

And many more…