FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter and AFC President Mohamed Bin Hammam ended their humanitarian tour of Asia this Wednesday (05/04) with a visit to Phuket in Thailand.
They stopped off at some of the spots devastated by the tsunami, such as this seaside school which is currently being rebuilt, and met with the province's governor, the chairman of Thailand's football federation and its general secretary, Worawi Makudi to discuss the work in progress. Despite the return of the tourists in substantial numbers to certain areas, there is still much work to be done, with pockets of destroyed buildings and homes requiring complete renovation.
Later, the delegation paid tribute to the start of construction work on the 'Tsunami Memorial Football Centre' in Phuket, a football hotbed, with Joseph S. Blatter expressing a dual hope as to its location. "Hopefully," he said, "the centre is being built sufficiently high up not only to survive another catastrophe, but also to be used as a place of refuge, if necessary."
The scores of children present were given gifts of footballs and sporting equipment, and the President took it upon himself to personally encourage the youngsters to train. "Sport offers important lessons for your whole life," he explained, "even if you don't become a great champion. For example, it teaches you to keep your hopes up when you lose a match, as you can play again and bounce back… just as in life."
This message was typical of the strong encouragement offered over these past few days, especially to the region's children who, despite having lost so much, have clearly not forgotten how to smile.