Thursday, February 09, 2012

Japan funds the Construction of Baseball Ground for Youth Training in Sri Lanka

Government of Japan provides Grant to Mahinda Rajapaksa Sports Development Foundation

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The Government of Japan has provided a sum of US$ 111,607 (approximately Rs.12 million) of grant assistance to the Mahinda Rajapaksa Sports Development Foundation for the “Project for the Construction of a Baseball Ground for Youth Training” under its Grant Assistance for Cultural Grassroots Projects (GCGP).

Japan, as a country where baseball is very popular, has supported the promotion of baseball in Sri Lanka since 2002 by assigning Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCV) as coaches to the Sri Lanka Amateur Baseball/Softball Association (SLABSA), resulting in its gaining popularity in Sri Lanka. Successive Japanese baseball coaches have worked hard during the past decade to enhance the baseball skills among an increasing number of youth who have taken a liking to this sport, which has its indigenous resemblance in the suburban sport known as „Elle’.

Accordingly, Sri Lankan baseball has now reached the level of international competition, ranked 32nd amongst 72 countries in 2011 and has already brought honour to the country by winning the third place in the Asian Cup Championship in Thailand in 2009 as well as securing the second place at the SAARC Baseball Championship in Pakistan in 2011. In addition, the University Student‟s Baseball team had also qualified for the World University Baseball Championship in 2010 while the Under 18 team gained 5th place in the 2011 Youth Baseball Championship in Japan. However, owing to the lack of facilities such as the need for a suitable baseball ground for proper training, Sri Lankan baseball has not been able to reach the highest level of the game.

This project would be implemented by the Mahinda Rajapaksa Sports Development Foundation and would be the first ever baseball ground not only in Sri Lanka but also in South Asia. The ground would be constructed within the Mahinda Rajapaksa Sports Complex in Homagama within this year. Sri Lanka is currently planning to host the 2013 SAARC Baseball Tournament and the construction of this baseball ground would be timely and beneficial for Sri Lanka to successfully engage in training in preparation for the tournament as well as to host the tournament for the first time.

Ambassador Nobuhito Hobo said, “This year Japan and Sri Lanka are commemorating the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations and the promotion of baseball in Sri Lanka was started by Japan‟s cooperation in 2002, the year of the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations, and the construction of this ground in the 60th anniversary year would contribute significantly to further enhancing the cultural relations between the two countries”.

Mr. Musthaque Mohamed, Chairman of the Foundation said “Japan as a friendly country of Sri Lanka has not only supported our country in the economic field but has also promoted sports in this country. Japan‟s support to introduce and promote baseball in Sri Lanka and assist us in the construction of a baseball ground is timely owing to the fact that Sri Lanka has now a national baseball team and would be hosting the 2013 SAARC Baseball Tournament. The people of Sri Lanka are grateful to Japan for this assistance and we hope that Japan would help us promote baseball in the future too.”

The Grant Contract between His Excellency Mr. Nobuhito Hobo, Ambassador of Japan and the Chairman of Mahinda Rajapaksa Sports Development Foundation, Mr. Musthaque S. Mohamed was signed on 9th February, 2012 at the Ambassador‟s official residence in Colombo.