Thailand provides footballs and academies for poor

Thailand’s new football president plans to boost the kingdom’s chances of World Cup qualification by giving away tens of thousands of free footballs. Worawi Makudi, a FIFA executive committee member, said football-crazy Thailand was being held back by poverty and that children in rural areas had little or no chance to play the game properly due to a lack of equipment. "When I go to some parts of rural Thailand, some kids don’t even have a proper pair of shoes," he told Reuters. "Many don’t have a chance to play. If they want to play, I will give every one of them a football and every kid will have a chance."

Worawi said 80,000 footalls will be given out this year to mark the 80th birthday of Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej, with more to be made available in future. The Thai sports authorities are setting up eight new football academies, focusing on the country’s poorest regions as well as the capital. "Our target is the 2014 World Cup, I think there’s a real possibility we can make it. With a good grassroots programme and a chance for every child to play, no talented players will slip through the net," Worawi said.