June 24, 2014
In the last few years, England football legend and Laureus Academy member Bobby Charlton has visited two Spirit of Soccer landmines awareness projects - in Bosnia in 2005 and Cambodia in 2007. He was horrified by what he saw, and has begun a personal crusade to fight the evil of landmines around the world
The immensity of the problem was hard to take in. There were literally thousands upon thousands of mines, probably millions, scattered everywhere, and children were losing their legs, sometimes their lives.
They were told not to go into certain areas, but often that was the best place to play football and they were prepared to take the risk because they loved their football.
First in Bosnia and now in Cambodia, the Spirit of Soccer project puts on coaching sessions on a pitch that has been cleared of mines, and at the end of it the children are taught what to look for and what to do in an emergency, if they ever come across a landmine.
What the volunteers are doing with the kids there is great, but when someone told me that it’s going to take around 200 years to clear up all the mines, I thought ‘this is ridiculous.’
If you’re a footballer one of the worst things that can ever happen is losing your leg. This is happening to these little kids without them even having the chance to be a footballer. We must do something to help.
Hopefully when we, as members of the Laureus World Sports Academy, get together we come up with some of the best projects in the world to support. Mine in particular is landmines clearance. If we can clear mines away without them actually blowing people up - young people in particular seem to suffer most - it’s something that I’m very happy with. And if one day we can eliminate mines that would be just fantastic – even if we can just help in doing this.