SINGAPORE - East Spring Primary School pupil Muhammad Nur Iman, 11, is excited to befriend other young participants of the Eurasian Association's (EA) inaugural football camp at the Lion City Sailors (LCS) Football Academy.
"Through this camp, I would like to learn what my friends from other cultures do during their festive celebrations. I can also teach them Malay words," said Iman.
Another participant, Dhruvan Suresh, 11, from Greenridge Primary School, said: "It is important to understand one another so we can work together and play as a team. I learn from my friends in school what their traditional foods and clothes are."
The EA kicked off its football camp, held in partnership with self-help groups Sinda and Mendaki, on Tuesday (June 21) at the LCS Football Academy.
The camp, which ends on Thursday, brings together 33 children between the ages of six and 11 from different races. Its aim is to enable the children to have a better understanding of one another's race and culture.
This camp marks the EA's first sports partnership with other self-help groups to get children from different backgrounds to mingle.
A 2018 survey by the Institute of Policy Studies and racial harmony advocacy group OnePeople.sg found that more Singaporeans had close friends of another race than five years earlier in 2013. The EA wants to encourage such friendships.
EA president Sandra Theseira said: "We decided to focus on children as forming friendships and promoting intercultural understanding starts from a young age.
"Over the three days, the children will all be mixed up so they will bond over a game of football. This event celebrates our multiracial identity."
Sinda chief executive Anbarasu Rajendran, Mendaki director of finance Muhammad Fithri Daud and LCS chief executive Chew Chun-Liang attended the launch of the camp.
Mr Chew said: "Sport brings people together. It is a common language even if you can't communicate in the same language. It is not about winning or scoring goals. It is about making the boys and girls learn teamwork."
"Children are blind to race. We have to ensure this continues when they become youngsters or adolescents. This underlying base we create from young guides them to identify with being Singaporean rather than their race," said Mr Anbarasu.
The EA said it will plan future football camps with the self-help groups and LCS with the feedback it receives on the inaugural camp.
A father of two participants, Mr Alvin Anthony Gallyot, 52, said, "This gives them an avenue where they can mingle with people from other races. My boys were brought up in a Eurasian environment. It is good for them to understand other races and cultures as Singapore is a melting pot of different cultures."