Football assists tsunami and earthquake victims

A young boy found wandering delirious on a beach in devastated Aceh province three weeks after last December's tsunami, made headlines when he was rescued wearing the red and green jersey of the Portugal national football team.

Martunis (pictured right), now eight, was found in Alun Naga, an obliterated village southwest of the provincial capital of Banda Aceh. He had apparently kept himself alive for 19 days by eating berries and dried noodles and drinking puddle water. He lost his mother, younger sister and older brother in the disaster.

Moved by his story, the Portuguese Football Federation flew him to Lisbon as guest of honour at a June World Cup qualifier with Slovakia, where he walked onto the pitch with his heroes. He was given a cheque for 40,000 euros (about US$47,300).

He may soon be back in the spotlight through the movies. A spokesman for Jakarta-based Multivision, which produces TV soaps, confirmed to Tomi Soetjipto of Reuters that it had a film contract with Martunis, but declined to give details.

FIFA, FOOTBALL'S international governing body, is donating 1,000 pairs of football boots to help the sport get back on its feet in Aceh, Asri Sulaiman of the Aceh branch of the Indonesian Football Association (PSSI) said as quoted by Antara newsagency (16 Dec).

FIFA vice president in charge of development affairs, Uhr Janitti, was scheduled to visit Murthala stadium to inspect its reconstruction, accompanied by David Borca, FIFA's director for Asia and Oceania and Windsor John, FIFA's representative for Southeast Asia.

The FIFA-funded renovation project, which involves repairs to six stadiums at an estimated cost of Rp 4.9 billion, is expected to be completed within the next year. The stadiums are located in Lampineung, Aceh Besar, Sigli, Bireuen, East Aceh and West Aceh, areas devastated by the 26 December 2005 tsunamis.

THE THAILAND national football team led by its staff coach Charnwit Pholchewin warmed up and trained at a pitch near the Phuket provincial hall for about two hours today before they got back to the hotel where they are staying.

During the 2005 King's Cup football tournament, the Thai team will first meet Latvia in Phang Nga, while Oman play North Korea in Krabi, on 24 December. The Thai staff coach invited football fans to give their support at Surakul stadium in Phuket and the main stadiums in Phang-Nga and Krabi towns, Thais News reported.

The 36th edition of the annual event was moved to the south of the country as part of the activities the Thailand government has organised to commemorate the first anniversary of the tsunami. The tournament is being telecast nationally by Channel 7. The final will be played on 30 December.

THE ASIAN Football Confederation has extended a donation of US$ 200,000 for assistance to Pakistani survivors of the 8 October earthquake, the president of the Pakistan Football Federation, Makhdoom Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat, told government officials.

Mr Faisal, who is also the Pakistan’s minister for Kashmir affairs, said he was informed that the AFC in collaboration with the International Association of Football Federation (FIFA) will increase this amount substantially, perhaps three to four times more.