The IJF Awards were presented during the Paris Grand Slam 2024. The Judo for Children award went to Lebanon for their Judo in Schools programme. François Saade Junior, Director General of the Lebanese Judo Federation, received the prize from the hands of IJF Director General Vlad Marinescu on the big stage in Bercy, in front of thousands of spectators. He was happy to answer our questions.
François Saade Junior, Director General of the Lebanese Judo Federation

IJF: What was your first reaction when you learned that you were nominated as one of the best projects in the world?

François Saade: To tell the truth, I didn't expect it. I was really surprised and happy at the same time and to this day I can't believe that we were among the best five countries chosen for this prize.

IJF: How did you react when you discovered that you had won?

François Saade: It was an incredible feeling; I was very happy of course. Those around me had told me that it was impossible to win but I made every effort to prove them wrong, while considering this cause as Lebanese and not exclusively as a judo federation cause.

IJF: What impact does this award have on your federation and on the programme itself?

François Saade: This prize is very important for the federation and the programme at the same time. I am looking to find someone who could support it to open up to more than two institutions.

IJF: How did children, parents, teachers, schools, etc, react when they learned that the programme won the IJF award?

François Saade: Nobody believed it so they were surprised and very happy. This prize gave them the hope, a big benefit of this programme, the belief that during this bad situation in Lebanon, there is always someone working for the country and the people.

IJF: What made your programme successful?

François Saade: It is thanks to the assistance and support of the International Judo Federation and thanks to the follow-up given by the Lebanese Judo Federation that there is success, especially since it is free. Parents do not bear anything at their expense.

IJF: How many schools are now concerned by the programme?

François Saade: We started with two junior high schools and it is important for us to multiply them more and more. This requires support so that a large number of schools in all regions of Lebanon can benefit from this programme. It has already started because after this award several schools have contacted us to find out more.

IJF: What is the overall goal of the programme, what are the objectives?

François Saade: The first essential objective is to expand the judo family and develop judo more and more. We hope in the future that these children become champions, representing Lebanon abroad.

IJF: What message do you want to deliver to other countries which already have Judo in Schools programmes or which would like to develop their own activities?

François Saade: In my opinion, the message is to expand this important programme to multiply the judo family; schools are the source for developing and expanding judo. This programme must be in as many schools as possible. It is beautiful and satisfying to see children training in an Olympic sport that takes them to a far away peaceful and exciting place.

It is interesting to note that the Judo for Children category had five nominees. The Lebanese Judo Federation won the award for 2023 and all the other projects also deserve our attention and must serve as a model for all countries in the world. It is also interesting to note that projects for children were present in other categories of the awards since the Tokyo Grand Slam children vs champion match and the Minecraft project were also nominated.

Children are our present and above all they represent our future. They are therefore at the centre of all our concerns.

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