The conference ‘Children in Sport – Champions in Life’ took place today in the Croatian capital of Zagreb. Organised in collaboration with the Ministry of Tourism and Sport of the Republic of Croatia and the European Judo Union, the conference aimed to facilitate discussions around the benefits of sports for children and youth, as well as the broader societal advantages of sporting events.
Left to right: Dr Laszlo Toth, president of the EJU, Mr Marius Vizer, president of the IJF, Dr Nikolina Brnjac, Minister of Tourism and Sport of the Republic of Croatia and Mr Hajrula Ceku, Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport of the Republic of Kosovo.

Instilling a passion for physical activity in people from a young age can foster a lifelong dedication to health and overall wellbeing. It's not merely about winning games but also about laying the groundwork for a prosperous and healthy future.

Mr Marius Vizer, president of the International Judo Federation, participated in the conference as a speaker on the panel "’Positive Youth Development Through Sport,’ delivering a vital message, “First of all, I want to congratulate the two ministers of sport from Croatia and Kosovo, as well as our esteemed colleagues from the Ministry in Azerbaijan. They represent three strong sporting countries and three judo nations. Judo is one of the main sports in all these countries and their federations are growing, achieving good results. I appreciate your contributions immensely."

"Globally, sport plays a crucial role in every country and society. The success of sport and national sport strategies depends primarily on government policies and their support for the sector. The sports ministries play a key role in the sport development of all nations. The second role belongs to the structures, boards and members of national federations, as they ensure accountability in budget administration and the selection of the best specialists for sports education.

The second reason sport is important today is that in modern society, children and younger generations no longer understand the importance of physical labour. Many young people prefer to study to avoid physical work. When I moved to Austria, I had to work four jobs per day, including coaching judo. All the other jobs were physical, lower-level work and I had to start from scratch. Judo helped me reset my life three times, empowering me to rebuild my life from nothing.

With all due respect to other sports, in my opinion, judo is the most educational sport. The historical significance and benefits of judo, such as building friendships, peace, social integration, respect, and discipline, are evident across many societies."

"Since the onset of Covid and global conflicts, we have become one of the most united federations, without discrimination based on war, religion, traditions or cultures. We are a family, united by the principles of our sport. Through programmes like Judo in Schools and other youth programmes, we have invested significantly. While judo medals are important, it's more important to build champions in life, successful individuals who can persevere through life's challenges. Another successful project is the IJF Academy, which offers comprehensive programmes for all ages, from children to coaches and managers.

Sport isn't just about better health; it's about unity and national pride. It serves as an engine that maintains and fosters patriotic spirit in countries. The best expression of this is when athletes stand on the podium and the national anthem plays; it's an impressive moment that touches our hearts, regardless of where we are or what profession we belong to, awakening our national spirit.”

With Mr Ratko Rudić, former head coach of the Croatian water polo team, at the conference.

The conference highlights the transformative power of sport and particularly judo. Let's continue promoting these values to empower the next generation of champions, both on and off the tatami.

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