Representatives from UEFA opened three mini-pitches in Beslan on Thursday during a moving two-day visit to the North Ossetian city.
The pitches were donated by the UEFA Executive Committee following the horrific siege in one of the city's schools in September last year that left 344 people dead, nearly half children, and hundreds more injured.
The three-man delegation comprising UEFA Executive Committee member Joseph Mifsud, Vitaliy Mutko, the newly-elected president of the Football Union of Russia, and UEFA's HatTrick manager Bruno Wolfisberg, arrived in the Russian city on Wednesday, laying flowers at a memorial in Beslan cemetery before visiting the ruins of School No1 where the tragic events of last September took place. "I am still in shock at the terrible deeds committed by those people stripped of all humanity," Mifsud said.
After a brief trip to the training ground of Russian Premier-Liga side FC Alania Vladikavkaz on Thursday, UEFA's representatives were welcomed by hundreds of children at School No3 where the first pitch was opened. UEFA and the Football Federation of Ukraine (FFU) financed the construction of the pitches, which cost €46,350 each, at the three schools in Beslan where the children of School No1 are now educated.
'Attention on youth'
The inauguration ceremony was then repeated at School No5, Mifsud taking a penalty before officially donating the pitch to the school's director. The third pitch at School No6 was a gift from the FFU, and Mutko this time scored from the spot as the school's children and their parents looked on. "UEFA will in future focus its attention on youth," Mifsud said. "Today is the first step." Mutko added: "Before the end of the year we aim to set up a programme of football-pitch construction for kids [in Russia]."
Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev claimed responsibility for the attack in which over 1,000 people were taken hostage in the school's gymnasium on 1 September last year. The siege lasted three days, ending in a gun battle between Russian security forces and the rebels on 3 September.
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