September 2004, Kyrgyz youth thrilled at Blatter's visit to Bishkek, where FIFA head opens new football stadium
Joseph Blatter, the President of FIFA, arrived in the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek on a sunny September day. His official one-day visit on 16 September - part of a tour of Central Asia - excited young footballers in this city of less than a million people. He opened Bishkek's brand new stadium, packed with government officials, Kyrgyz footballers and fans to watch young people compete in tournaments. The National Football Centre was built from FIFA funds.
UNICEF and the Kyrgyz Football Federation kicked off their cooperation in January this year, dedicating the biggest youth championship in Kyrgyzstan, The Kyrgyz President's Cup, to the need to create healthier lifestyles among young people. The Cup, which takes place every year from April to the end of August, was held under the slogan 'Kyrgyz Young Football Players against Drugs and HIV/AIDS'.**
Volunteers of the National Red Crescent Society and the NGO 'Alliance for Reproductive Health', using peer-to-peer methods, helped the young footballers to learn about the risks of unhealthy behaviours and how to protect themselves, where to get information and how to communicate sensitive issues to their peers.
Richard Young sat down on the grass of the new stadium to listen to their stories and answer their questions. Born in Manchester, he was surprised to learn that the young boys knew all the members of Manchester United Football Club. With great interest, they listened to him explain why Manchester United was invited to be a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and how famous football players help children in developing countries.
Mr. Muraliev, the President of the National Football Federation, thanked UNICEF for organizing training for coaches. And Mr. Young, to conclude his speech, said: "We believe in the power of football, we believe that sport helps children – both boys and girls - not only to grow physically strong; it also helps to build the confidence and self-esteem that will serve them throughout their lives".