Sunday, December 25, 2005

FIFA and AFC fund repairs to Aceh's main stadium

FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation are financing major repairs to the Banda Aceh’s Lampineung Stadium damaged by the 26 December 2005 earthquake and tsunamis that devasted the western-most province of Indonesia. “We have to thank FIFA for helping us in our time of need,” said Burhanudin Amin, a Persiraja FC official supervising the works on the 15,000-seat stadium. “Without them, this club would have died in the tsunami,” he told Slobodan Lekic of Associated Press.

The stadium was first badly damaged by the earthquake then submerged by the huge wave, leaving only the "forlorn-looking goalposts" standing. Spanish and other troops who arrived a few days later with heavy equipment to help with rescue and relief operations, further damaged the site. They bivouacked at the stadium, setting up makeshift warehouses for humanitarian supplies on the pitch.

FIFA and the AFC launched a US$10.5 million Tsunami Solidarity Fund for football infrastructure reconstruction in areas affected by the tsunami. AP reported this included financing for numerous projects in Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Thailand, where a Tsunami Memorial Football Centre will be built. In the Maldives, relief financing was directed into repairs to the damaged headquarters of the national football body and their training centre, while in Sri Lanka 13 separate reconstruction projects were funded.

The Lampineung Stadium repairs, as with football pitches in the outlying towns of Bireun and Langsa, are to facilitate the return to national competition of the province's three leading teams

However Nuzuli Ibrahim, deputy head of the Indonesian Sports Confederation in Aceh, told AP that despite the help received so far, it was still difficult to reconstruct the teams and get the players motivated to participate. “The teams are not back to speed,” he said. “Players have not played in a long time, coaches have left, stadiums are still unfinished and money is short to support the program.”

But on an optimistic note, Nuzuli said help was still arriving, sometimes in unexpected forms. “For instance, Bosnia – another country familiar with tragedy – had just offered to send a coach, and maybe a couple of players to help out Persiraja with their return to league competition,” he said.

See also: Football assists tsunami and earthquake victims (23 Dec)

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