Updated: Saturday, 21st July 2018 @ 8:06am

'Ridiculous': Man United great Sir Bobby Charlton frustrated by slow process to rid world of landmines

'Ridiculous': Man United great Sir Bobby Charlton frustrated by slow process to rid world of landmines

| By Duncan Robinson

Sir Bobby Charlton has begun a personal crusade to fight the evil of landmines and has spoken in depth about some of the horrors that he encountered through seeing them up close.

The Manchester United and England legend is one of 46 esteemed members of the Laureus World Sports Academy whose motto ‘using the power of sport for social change’ helps to tackle pressing social challenges through various differing projects around the world.

And Sir Bobby visited two such projects, in Bosnia in 2005 and Cambodia in 2007.

“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,” said the 1966 World Cup winner.

“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.”

It is estimated that mines lying hidden in more than 70 countries, including Vietnam, Laos, Angola and Sri Lanka, kill or maim about 2,000 people a month but at the present rate will take 1,000 years to be cleared.

Volunteers help to clear up the mines and coaching sessions on cleared pitches are put on. The children are also taught what to look for and what to do if ever they come across a landmine, and Charlton thinks this is important.

“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.”

It is obvious that Charlton certainly sees the issue as something very close to his heart and since his visits to Bosnia and Cambodia his own charity ‘Find A Better Way’ has been founded, aimed at reducing the suffering caused by landmines.

Charlton plays an active role in the charity and is determined to use the influence gained from a life in the sporting spotlight to highlight the plight of landmine victims around the world.

“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.

"If one day we can eliminate mines that would be just fantastic – even if we can just help in doing this.“

For more information on his charity or if you would like to make a donation, see this link.

Main image courtesy of Laureus, with thanks.