Djorkaeff and Cha families stress importance of role models at Mongolian Football for Schools event

  • FIFA Foundation hosts educational workshop in Ulaanbaatar

  • Foundation CEO Youri Djorkaeff runs event alongside his father Jean, a former France international

  • Korea Republic father-son Legends, Cha Bumkun and Cha Duri, also attend

Role models was the theme of the day at the Football for Schools event in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, as FIFA Foundation CEO Youri Djorkaeff teamed up with his father Jean, himself a former France international, to help run the workshop. The Djorkaeffs, who have Mongolian heritage, were joined by Korea Republic’s all-time top goalscorer Cha Bumkun and his son Cha Duri, who also earned 76 caps for his country in a distinguished career. The father-son duos were taking part in the FIFA Foundation’s Football for Schools project, which encourages youth participation in football at school through structured sessions, using football games to convey educational messages and encouraging children to take responsibility for their decisions in a safe and supportive environment. This project, which is being undertaken globally, puts football right at the heart of social development.

“It’s good that during exercise, you stop, you make a circle, and you can deliver some tools or life skills from this communication: gender equality, community. Every moment is always good when you’re using sport for good,” explained Youri Djorkaeff. Youri Djorkaeff, a FIFA World Cup™ winner with France in 1998, said he was thankful for the lessons his father Jean, who won 48 caps for Les Bleus, taught him growing up. “This was very important for me because I remember the pride of my father working, practising [and] trying to do his best for his country and I realised how important [it is] when you have character, humility, effort and joy to play this game; it’s important that you improve every day,” said Youri.

Now it’s up to us to show the kids, to enjoy the game.

Youri Djorkaeff

“It’s not just to give what my father gave me; I was born with this gift and I worked so hard for today to share [it] with other kids and my team and [the] members of the Mongolian delegation. “It’s important but when you have the chance to have my father teach me [and] show me, and now it’s [up to] us to show the kids, to enjoy the game.” Jean Djorkaeff’s father was from the Kalmyk Mongolian ethnic group and it was a special moment for him to return to Mongolia and share his knowledge and life experience with the hundreds of children in attendance. Jean understood the key role he played in Youri’s development. “I am very happy for Youri, because he has made it, he is a very good player, but he didn’t get there by himself,” explained the 82-year-old. “I think that it was lucky that I had success before him, it allowed him to see how much work he needed to do. “So, I helped him with football, I tried to include him. When I went running, he came running with me. All that meant that at one point or another he became a great player – he made it. So, I think it is important that children have opportunities to be able to work hard.”

The FIFA Legends took part in a series of football games with the children, as well as imparting their knowledge through classroom sessions. Cha Bumkun believes that lessons learnt on the football pitch extend well beyond the game itself. “I started these types of classes in Korea, 32 years ago. After returning from Germany, the reason that I decided to lead these classes was not to teach these children to become professionals, but in general to teach social lessons to them through football,” explained Cha Bumkun, who is also his country’s joint-most capped player with 136 appearances. “I thought this role was very crucial. Becoming a footballer is important too, but through football, you can learn about oneself, your colleagues and opponents as well. If this becomes part of their daily lives at a young age, if this becomes part of their culture, I believe it would be crucial to the country’s future as well. “Football isn’t something you can do alone. I think football can take on a great role in building the foundations of our communities to live together harmoniously in a common society. This will build a healthier society and that is why I emphasise the purpose of these projects.” His son, Cha Duri grew up in Germany whilst his father was playing professional football there. “My dad was my hero and my dream. He was the one responsible for my decision to become a football player and nothing else,” said Cha Duri. “So to me, my Dad had the most important role in my life and in my football career.”

Former Germany midfielder Julia Simic was also in Ulaanbataar to extoll the virtues of collaboration on and off the field. “Basically, everywhere where there was a ball, we played football. And I think that’s a nice thing about football: everyone can play it. It’s a game for everyone,” said Simic, who recently retired from professional football. “It doesn’t matter what age [you are], where you are from, what language you speak. I don’t speak Mongolian and we got on very well. We bonded very quickly as well, and that’s a nice thing about football. “I have a lot of positive memories; bonding with people, playing in a team environment, and also learning a lot from football.” Football for Schools is an ambitious programme run by FIFA, in collaboration with UNESCO, which aims to contribute to the education, development and empowerment of around 700 million children. It seeks to make football more accessible to both boys and girls around the world by incorporating football activities into the education system, in partnership with relevant authorities and stakeholders. The programme has been designed to promote targeted life skills and competencies through football and contribute to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and other priorities.

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