Banda Aceh, Indonesia | Football’s connection to the tsunami one year ago today is perhaps best represented by Martunis, the boy who, at 7, kept himself alive for 19 days by eating berries and drinking puddle water in his village of Alun Naga, near the provincial capital. That he was wearing the red-and-green Portugal jersey when rescued made him a poster child for football’s relief efforts following the disaster. He attended a World Cup qualifier in Lisbon, collected a check and now is being tutored for a role in an Indonesian soap opera.
Lest the aftermath sound like a fairy tale, however, Martunis’s mother, brother and sister died when the wave struck, and organized football in this northern tip of Sumatra has ceased. The wave left only the goalposts standing in 15,000-capacity Lampineung Stadium, home to Persiraja of the Indonesian first division. Damage increased when the stadium was selected as a staging area for relief operations. Yet partly due to a $10.5 million Tsunami Solidarity Fund administered by FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation, Persiraja and two other Aceh-area teams hope to return to the national competitions in February 2006. The funds also assist redevelopment in Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Thailand, where plans exist for the Tsunami Memorial Football Center.