MARTENS Oval will take on an international flavour this weekend as the inaugural Festival of Football gets underway.
Under-14 teams from Settsu in Japan and the Solomon Islands will arrive in Bundaberg later this week ahead of the two-day round robin tournament.
The Football Bundaberg initiative has been an 18-month project for development manager Richard Mitchell.
Mitchell said the carnival would produce a competitive weekend of football, but hopes the benefits for the youngsters involved stretch a little bit further.
“It’s not just about football it’s about learning about other cultures and learning new life skills as well,” he said.
“We hope the children come away with a new perspective on things.”
Mitchell, a Scottish expat, said the sport of football had a special knack for bringing people of different cultures together.
“They live a little bit differently to us and they look a bit differently to us, but they all love their football,” he said.
“Sport is a common bond shared by people all over the world.”
The visiting players will be hosted with their opponents from Moore Park, Brothers Aston Villa, Across The Waves and North Bundaberg teams during their stay.
“It’s going to be a great experience for all involved,” Mitchell said.
“I think our guests will take something away from it and I think our footballers will too.”
Mitchell hopes the event will become annual and hopes to organise similar tournaments in Japan and the Solomon Islands.
“It’s a fantastic concept and we hope this is just the start of a long relationship between us,” he said.
“We hope to cement the relationship this weekend and continue it for years to come.”
Mitchell has been organising the carnival for the past 18 months in partnership with Bundaberg Regional Council.
He said the sound of the referee’s whistle ushering-in the first game of the round-robin tournament would be just reward for a lot of hard work. “It’s been a big project for us, but I think it’s really going to benefit the kids involved,” he said.
The tournament starts at Martens Oval on Saturday morning.
Sport is a common bond shared by people all over the world.