Gazprom, an official partner of FIFA and the 2018 FIFA World Cup™, has announced the opening of the fifth season of the Football for Friendship (F4F) international children's social project, which will be held in St. Petersburg, Russia, from 26 June to 3 July.

The project, which is aimed at developing youth football and fostering respect towards different cultures and ethnicities from across the world, has expanded considerably in 2017, with the number of participating countries doubling from 32 to 64.

This year, Mexico and USA will make their F4F debut, meaning the latest edition will bring together young footballers from the Americas, Africa, Europe and Asia.

The key values supported and promoted by the project's participants include friendship, equality, fairness, health, peace, devotion, victory, traditions and honour.

A new format has also been implemented for the fifth season. Instead of representing football clubs from different countries, young players will be divided into eight international Friendship Teams. Eight-player teams will comprise boys and girls aged 12 to 14, including those with disabilities.

“I took part in the 2016 season as a player. I consider myself extremely fortunate, as the project offers new opportunities to all of its young ambassadors,” said Rene Lampert, of Slovenian side Maribor’s junior team. “If I was 12, I would do whatever it takes to play the new season with other kids!”

The fifth season of the F4F project will conclude with a visit to the final match of the FIFA Confederations Cup 2017 at Saint Petersburg Stadium. Young journalists will also cover all key events on equal terms with adult reporters.

“Gazprom pursues global projects that look forward into the future, and the F4F project is closely aligned with that goal. In a mere four years, the number of participating countries grew eightfold,” said Alexey Miller, Chairman of the Gazprom Management Committee. “This year, St. Petersburg will host young footballers from four continents. It means that the values of our social project are meaningful and relevant to children and teenagers all around the globe.”

Philippe Le Floc’h, FIFA’s Chief Commercial Officer, said: “Gazprom’s initiative will give a voice to children from around the world and we wholeheartedly endorse the goals and key values of the F4F project. We are delighted to support the initiatives of the F4F Organising Committee until the 2018 FIFA World Cup.”​