Botham's mission: Rebuilding lives through sports
GALLE, Wednesday - English cricket legend Ian Botham is of the
opinion the best way to help people affected by the December 26 tsunami
rebuild their lives is through sports.
"Sports teaches you a lot of things in life. It teaches you bonding,
to work with people, to control your emotions some of the time or most
of the time. There are a lot of things that sports brings together,"
said Botham at a media briefing held at the Galle International Stadium
"Sri Lanka is rich in cricketing history and it seems a logical
progression to me. I for one would rather see kids play sports rather
than stand in street corners. We want to take it to that level," he
Botham who arrived in Sri Lanka to gather first hand information on
the affected areas down South was sent on this mission as an ambassador
of the Laureus Sports Award of which he is one of the 42 members.
"I was lucky enough to be an academy member. To be a member one of
the 42 is an honour. That's how I got involved with this project,"
stated the former England all-rounder.
Speaking further Botham said: "At our first inaugural meeting in
Monaco, Nelson Mandela (the former South African president) said that
sports breaks down barriers and brings people together more than
anything else in the world. What we are here for is to see for ourselves
and then assess the trauma these kids, the adults and the whole
community have gone through. Sports is a good way for getting them out
of it." Botham flew to Galle by seaplane and the view he saw from above
he described as 'quite eerie'.
"In 2003 when I was last here covering cricket for Sky TV we stayed
at a hotel on the beach, which is no longer there. The activity, the
fishmongers, the boats, the houses, everything's gone. I have never seen
anything like this before. It is scary and seems something out of a
disaster movie," said Botham.
"When you look at the cricket ground there was a Test match played
here some 18 months ago. You remember it in splendour. Now it looks like
the surface of the moon. It's bizarre," he said.
What surprised Botham was the resilience of the people in the area
despite the tragedy and trauma they had undergone.
"The resilience of these people is quite amazing. I am a great
believer that the sooner we get things up and running sportswise in this
area, you will get particularly the younger generation, perhaps even
more resilient than the older generation. It would be more devastating
for the people of this area not to have sports facilities. I think the
effect will be more damaging," said Botham.
"What we are trying to do is to look at the future and see what we
can do to help bring stability to this part of the world. It's got a
great cricketing history. You only have to spend time in this country to
know how keen and how much cricket plays a part in the life of the Sri
We want to do something in that direction. We are here to enhance the
lives of the children and their parents," Botham continued.
"From what I've seen here I don't think there is enough money in the
world to put all this right. There are a lot of people out there doing
things for what's happened. We are trying to find a way to take it to
the next level, which is to advance forward. I feel that if you do
something, you do it properly. I will be very much involved with this
project as much as the one I am already involved in Northern Ireland."
"There will be no politics, no ifs and buts. If we see something and
feel that work needs to be done we will get a work force down here,
people we can rely on and we will ensure it is done the same way as
other projects we have done with enormous success," Botham said.
Botham was of the opinion that the Galle International Cricket
Stadium should be reconstructed and used to host international matches
The history of this ground proves that it is one of the prettiest
around. A disaster has happened and this is something that we have no
control over. It's the way of the world. It's nature. There is nothing
stronger than nature. Why wouldn't we want to keep this ground and its
history like what it was before the disaster? he asked.
Associated with the media conference was Kushil Gunasekara of the
Muralitharan-Gunasekara-Vaas Foundation, Brad Graspas, CEO of the Shane
Warne Foundation, Giles Gibbons of the Laureus Sports Awards and other
Botham also visited the tsunami affected areas of Seenigama and