Blatter opens beach centre in tsunami-hit town
COLOMBO, Apr 5: A new beach soccer ground was opened and work began on one of 18 soccer centres as the president of world soccer's governing body Sepp Blatter continued his tour of tsunami-affected nations with a trip to Sri Lanka.
FIFA President Blatter and Asian Football Confederation chief Mohammed Bin Hammam flew by helicopter south from Colombo over the island's palm-fringed, golden sand-lined shores to the coastal town of Kalutara to inaugurate the beach ground.
The pair also officially marked the beginning of work on the 18 centres, to be built all over Sri Lanka, which will cost a total of 3 million dollar.
Sri Lanka is cricket-mad, and is peppered with pitches, but soccer is far less popular and facilities are few and far between.
''On our way to Sri Lanka we were expecting sorrowful faces. But on arrival we saw a different picture,'' Blatter told reporters.
The building of the centres was made possible through the FIFA/AFC Tsunami Solidarity fund and they will be completed at the end of the year, FIFA said on its Web site.
Blatter and Bin Hammam inaugurated the Kalutara ground in front of more than a thousand people, including many children from the 18 regions that will benefit from the projects.
''This ceremony was pure emotion. I am touched by the contrast between the Tsunami tragedy and the smile on the faces of these children,'' Blatter said. ''This is football for hope.'' The tsunami tour, which also took in the neighbouring Maldives and Indonesia, will be wrapped up today in Thailand.