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3.5.2004
What news we should read?

Crystal Palace - Sunderland 3-0
Crewe - Crystal Palace 2-3
BosniaHertsegovina - Finland 1-0
Crystal Palace - Walsall 1-0

Bullet holes everywhere. Graveyards. It is not what you expect to see before a football game. Signs of painful war are all over the society and the whole country. Itís Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia- Hertsegovina. You can see and feel the history. My free kick at the local training ground wonít stay in it. It goes over the goal. Iím advised not to go to get it, there could still be mines.

We played last week an international friendly against this poor country. Poor on resources but not on ability and attitude on sports. Around the football pitch people are smiling, helpful and happy to follow our national team training. A little boy helps our kit man to get back my free kick. But instead of returning the ball these two strangers start to pass it to each other. Suddenly little boys eyes are full of life and passion. The joy on his face while he is playing doesnít remind of years of fear and uncertainty. He is just happy to play football. And he is proud when his national team beats us.

Who really cares if Beckham cheated! I have read about bad things that happened in Sarajevo and to its brave people. I can only wonder how they feel when papers compare football teamsí situation or players personal issues as a matter of life and death. Thatís what media is all about Ė false misery. Why do we need to read about footballers private problems! Why do papers want to write mainly about struggling teams and players! Why is the main story so often about a footballer being ashamed! Or something being bad! Why isnít anything good a news material anymore!

Michael Owen has done loads of charity work that have not been noticed in the press. David Beckham and most of the footballers are good fathers and husbands but that is not written anywhere. Instead papers try to prove that they arenít. Where is the story about Thierry Henry making a day of a young boy by talking to him for a while? Where is the story of someone playing a great game? Where is the story about happy young kid playing football in Sarajevo! All these have happened. Many times.

Still yet again after our last weekís international friendly all the match reports are a combination of how poor the country of Bosnia is and how badly some of our individuals played. I actually thought the country and their football team were taking big steps towards better days. I thought there are lot of positive about their attitude on things, especially on football. However I donít see a tiny remark about this in any of the papers.

At modern days easy access to information guarantees we can get all the results and stories at the same second the game is finished. Newspapers are made to inform us, but next day the results are already old news. So instead they have started to give you a person or a scandal. And access for people to peaking into these.

The world has changed into this peaking culture. The popularity of all the reality shows and tabloid papers are the best proves of it. We can get personal information about almost from anything or anyone we want. We sacrifice the real issues to get persons and gossips. And we have been let to believe that we want this.

Who really needs all the Big Brother Ėcompetitions in the world! I like more the image of a kid in Sarajevo enjoying playing football. Thatís pure. Football can give this sunny side, not just some personal rains we read from the papers. Football should be the joy you can always turn into when life is showing the middle finger. Football does that in Sarajevo. It makes some things to be forgotten, at least for a while. It gives hope. It can do it everywhere.

The young boy isnít very good at football. But he loves it. It makes a difference to him. Our kit man provided it by giving just a ball and bit of his time. I would also like to make a difference somehow. Now I know it is not just by winning a trophy or a game but rather by making someone happy. I would still do everything to win a promotion with my team, but kicking a ball around in the park with a young kid could be as important.

We all can help, even change lives. Just by giving a bit effort and attention to other people. Our kit man did that. And it made him happy as well. I havenít done it enough. I should. Because my proudest moment as a footballer is not that I won the Finnish Cup or played in Champions League. It is when I managed to make a little girl smile. It is also just before a game when I see excitement on peopleís faces. It is when I see people enjoying the game. These are the real things. I canít remember how I scored against England. However I can remember a joyful game at SOS Ėchild village. And I will always remember that kid in Sarajevo.

Helping and making other people happy doesnít need money. It only needs making an effort for it. Through football we can help not just ourselves but also other people. Take your son to closest park to kick a ball around. You have just made two people happy. Take him to a game and he will love you forever for that.

So here is my challenge. For me and for You. What can we do today? Who can we make happy? Who can we make to smile? Trying it wonít cost a thing. It wonít be mentioned in the papers though. Best things will be written in our hearts.
-Aki


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