Chechen landmine survivors score goals on the football pitch
GROZNY, June 2008 – Landmines and explosive remnants of war continue to pose a serious threat to civilians in Chechnya, especially children. More than 3,000 mine accidents, at least 700 of them fatal, have occurred in Chechnya since 1994, according to UNICEF Russia.
No sector of society remains untouched by the tragedy of landmines and unexploded ordnance – including the country’s future economists, governors, and teachers.
The Laman Az project (Chechen for ‘Voice of the Mountains’) created a football team with help from UNICEF in 2002 as part of the Mine Action Survivor Assistance programme. The team has provided a healthy outlet and healing experience for many adolescents who were wounded physically and psychologically by mines and unexploded ordnances.
UNICEF’s Regional Director for Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States, Maria Calivis, recently visited the team and commended its young members for their courage, calling them ‘an example for all of us.’
Chechen Republic President Ramzan Kadyrov, during a meeting with Ms. Calivis, vowed to build a large new sports complex in which disabled athletes will ‘certainly have their place.’
With support from UNICEF, the Laman Az footballers have participated in a number of national and international tournaments, with excellent results. The team has become well known in Russia, and two of the players were included into the national football team for the disabled. In a national tournament organized by the Federal Ministry of Interior, one of the Chechen players, Muslim Tsunstaev, received an award as best striker.
UNICEF provided the team with basic equipment and restored the premises for training in the only surviving gym in war-torn Grozny.
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