By Phylma Timea, Games News Service
PORT MORESBY, July 18 – Over the past two weeks, more than 600 disadvantaged children from around Port Moresby have been given the opportunity to watch live sport at the 2015 Pacific Games thanks to the Just Play initiative put together by UNICEF Papua New Guinea and the Papua New Guinea Football Association (PNGFA).
The aim of Just Play at the Pacific Games focused on bringing children from the settlement areas of Port Moresby to BSP Stadium to feel the spirit of being involved in a large scale sporting event.
The kids, between the ages of six and 12, also received football coaching and mentoring during the programme.
Noreen Chambers, the communications officer of UNICEF Papua New Guinea, believes Just Play is important because she sees it gaining momentum worldwide since being introduced into the Pacific region by the Oceania Football Confederation in 2011.
“We are trying to provide a unique opportunity for the kids to come and experience the games spirit and soak up the atmosphere because these are kids who would not be in the position or would not be able to afford to come into the stadium and watch,” Chambers said.
She also acknowledged the local organisers who played a major role in ensuring children were given access into the sporting venues throughout the two weeks.
“Thank you to the Pacific Games Organising Committee,” Chambers said. “They allowed us to bring all these children in free of charge so we didn’t have to pay for anything. They’ve given us passes for the kids to come and enjoy themselves and go out which is great.”
Also taking part in the Just Play programme were students from Noblet Elementary School in Port Moresby, which has been involved in the initiative since 2013.
For many of the children, it was their first time to visit a venue hosting live sport.
Ten-year-old Delilah Lai was one of them: “This is my first time to come here and I am very happy. I am enjoying it and my favourite sport is volleyball,” she said.
First grade student Marianna Miato was also excited to be involved.
“I love to play soccer and then I get to come to the stadium and play it again,” she said. “I love it more because my friends are here too, even though we are on holidays.”
The Just Play programme at BSP Stadium finishes on Saturday, prior to the closing ceremony of the 2015 Pacific Games that evening.