Media Release: Melbourne Coach headed for international football event in Russia

Media Release: Melbourne Coach headed for international football event in Russia

A pioneering Melbourne-based football coach and social crusader has won Australian involvement for the first time in the world renowned international Football for Friendship (F4F) program in St Petersburg Russia.

Melbourne's Emanuel Saakai fundraises in Australia through his soccer academy’s social enterprise to support football-loving street kids and orphans in his native Tanzania in Africa.

He will lead a group of five from his Lengo Football Academy in Tanzania to Russia from June 26-July 3 to take part in the FIFA and UEFA endorsed fifth annual F4F festival involving children from a record 64 countries - not including Australia itself.

Tanzania has been invited for the first time to take part in F4F, which has German football legend Franz Beckenbauer as its global ambassador, and Lengo has been chosen as Tanzania's representative. Mr Saakai lives in Melbourne but divides his time between Australia and the academy he founded in Arusha, Tanzania, to help educate and care for disadvantaged children and their families through the universal power of football.

Mr Saakai, along with Lengo chair Roxanne Strauss, who will document, film and report on the groundbreaking trip, will travel to the St Petersburg event from Australia while academy operations manager and coach Amani Mzava, along with 12-year-old academy stars Angel Mgumba and Victor Mollel travel to Russia from Africa on the trip of a lifetime.

The week long celebration of friendship and peace in sport culminates in the Confederations Cup final on July 2, which the delegates will all attend. F4F's international children’s social project is sponsored by Russian gas exploration company Gazprom and attended by hundreds of young players and junior reporters from the Americas, Africa, Europe and Asia. Participants play a tournament in teams of mixed nationality, ethnicity, race, gender and ability level in a spirit of fostering respect between different cultures.

Lengo CEO Mr Saakai, a coach at Clifton Hill FC, Juventus Academy Melbourne and the Harry Kewell Academy, said that Lengo Football Academy runs quality football programs in Australia to support the Lengo Academy on the ground in Tanzania, which focuses on youth development and positive social change. Lengo coaches teach disadvantaged youth and street children about aspiring and achieving on and off the field, where individuals, their families and communities thrive. Academy players are supported through school as a condition of participation and where possible and necessary helped with clothing, shelter and nutrition.

“The opportunity for these two young people to attend the global event in Russia is incredibly exciting, especially when you think that these two youths have never even left Arusha before. The opportunity fits with Lengo’s purpose - to create pathways for disadvantaged Tanzanian youth to score goals on and off the football field,” Emanuel said.

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