Earlier this month, Vitamin Well, Stockholm Football Association and football star Dejan Kulusevski invited 30 children and youths from one of Stockholm’s socially vulnerable areas to participate in Dejan Kulusevski Football Day x Vitamin Well. The purpose of the event was to encourage, inspire, and advise children who love football, but also risk social exclusion.
”The joy of football should determine how far one can reach, not circumstances”, Dejan Kulusevski said.
The first version of Dejan Kulusevski Football Day x Vitamin Well was arranged last year and focused on helping bring children who lost their connection to football during the pandemic, back into the sport. The event received an abundance of positive feedback, which lead to the decision to arrange a second event. This time around, children that want to play football but might have a hard time partaking in the sport due to their social environment, were invited.
“These children might miss training sessions since they can’t get a ride. They might not be able to afford to travel to away games and might not go to football matches with their parents as often. They might lack family or friends who are engaged in the football club. Today, these kids could train, hang out and receive support from a star like Dejan Kulusevski and that really meant a lot to them”, Jamshid Masori, Football Developer with a focus on integration and inclusion at Stockholms Football Association, said.
“To us, it felt important giving the opportunity to meet and train with Dejan to children that might not have the perfect circumstances”
Petter Ericson Hållén, Marketing Manager for Vitamin Well globally
“Dejan is a player who has chosen to go his own way, a player who plays the kind of football he wants, and that has succeeded in doing so. He is a role model and a source of inspiration for many. To us, it felt important giving the opportunity to meet and train with Dejan to children that might not have the perfect circumstances”, Petter Ericson Hållén, Marketing Manager for Vitamin Well globally, said.
The attending children came from a local club in Farsta, outside of Stockholm, which has put a lot of effort into making the football field a safe and welcoming space regardless of socioeconomic status. Together with Stockholm’s Football Association, the club has made several initiatives to counteract the social exclusion of children in the area.
“Recognizing what’s going on within the clubs in our region, we seek to help where help is needed the most. We try to target areas that the police have listed as vulnerable, and that the Swedish National Sports Federation, Riksidrottsförbundet, has listed as prioritized. This time around, we were able to invite the club in Farsta and we want to give everyone, regardless of background, the possibility to play football. Today, the children experienced an inspiring football day together with our Football Developers, Dejan Kulusevski and Vitamin Well”, Gittan Ahonen Gunnarzon, Head of Marketing and Communication at Stockholm’s Football Association”, said.
“People who have seen me play as a child usually say that I am the same player and that I play the same way today.”
The day was full of technical training, laughs, and friendly banter. The children were far from shy and asked Kulusevski about everything from his favorite food and football idols to advanced football tips and tricks.
“We had a lot of fun, which is what football is all about to me, still today. What matters is doing what you love, that way you’ll get good at it. That’s how I play football and how I live my life. So, I tell them to focus on what they love, regardless of whether it is scoring or dribbling. It is important to me to share that, regardless of circumstances, the joy of football should be what determines how far one can reach”, Dejan Kulusevski said.
Kulusevski, who plays in the English professional league and is part of the Swedish national team, adds that he did not only participate in the event to teach children but also learned something himself.
“It’s way more inspiring watching children play football, compared to adults. Children play with joy and imagination, and playing with them reminds me of how it was when I was younger. I did not listen to anyone, I played however I wanted, which hasn’t changed. People who have seen me play as a child usually say that I am the same player and that I play the same way today.”