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 Post subject: Drawing a smile in Sri Lanka
 Post Posted: Fri Apr 15, 2005 4:21 pm 
Pure Football, Pure Hope
Drawing a smile in Sri Lanka


(FIFA.com) 14 Apr 2005

The beautiful island of Sri Lanka, lying to the south of India in the heart of the Indian Ocean, was among the countries worst affected when towering waves battered coastlines on 26 December 2004. An estimated 40,000 of its 20 million inhabitants lost their lives and a million were left homeless. Half of that number continue to live in tents, churches or convents.
Forming part of FIFA's Football for Hope project, instructor Holger Obermann and a team of local coaches from the Football Federation of Sri Lanka made a four-week trip around the island pushing the game as a form of initial self-help. They visited the regions of Kalutera and Galle on the west coast and Trincomalee in the east of the country, promoting educationally proven forms of play to bring back the fun for those traumatised.

From areas 100 kilometres away, children were bussed in and put up in local schools to attend the centres. Up to 40 teachers and football coaches learned lessons in practical forms of play with about 400 young boys and girls, many who had lost parents, brothers and sisters, included in the initial mission.

Thirteen-year-old Anil Sampath lost both her parents to the tsunami. "I thought my life was over", she said. "My friends were also killed by the floods. Now, I've found new playmates and rediscovered my will to live."

Pandule Siilva, coach of a small club in Kalutera, said he now understood FIFA meant humanitarian aid as well as the World Cup.

"Although we have lost everything - our ground, our little clubhouse and all of our kit, we can look to the future with more hope now that FIFA is going to help us build new sports facilities," added P.M.S. Peiris, president of the SBC in Kalutera.

On the east coast, Obermann held a seminar with sports teachers and around 200 boys and girls in the Tamil province of Trincomalee, where traces of a 20 year conflict are still visible. Vastly experienced having worked in East Timor, Nepal and Afghanistan, the FIFA instructor saw signs that the tsunami disaster might bring its people closer together. "Sport has the wonderful ability to act as a peacemaker," he ventured.

The recently appointed president of the Sri Lankan Football Federation, N. Thilina Panditaratne, hoped world football's governing body would continue to help in the rebuilding of football in the South Asian country.

"The damage done by the tsunami is far greater than anyone on the outside can imagine", he said. "Our young people were most affected by it, but with the help of football we can now give them new courage to face life."

More missions are expected to be carried out later in the year in Sri Lanka and other regions hit by the tsunami.


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