Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 July 2019

Cricket legend Brian Lara calls for children to put down phones and exercise more

West Indies star makes plea at Dubai forum

Brian Lara, former cricket star, says sports must be made a priority at schools, at the Global Education and Skills Forum on Sunday. Leslie Pableo for The National 
Brian Lara, former cricket star, says sports must be made a priority at schools, at the Global Education and Skills Forum on Sunday. Leslie Pableo for The National 

Cricket legend Brian Lara has urged schools across the globe to do more to encourage children to put away their smartphones and exercise.

On Sunday, the former West Indies cricket star was part of a panel discussion about how sport can change the lives of young people for the better.

He was joined, at the Global Education and Skill Forum in Dubai, by former Manchester United and Argentina footballer Juan Sebastian Veron.

“There were not many distractions for children 25 to 30 years ago,” said Lara.

“They didn’t have the computers and iPhones that every child has now. It’s too easy to be to sit back and just spend your time using devices that only require you to move your fingers."

He said there should be a compulsory move towards getting children to play more sports and it was imperative that schools ensured exercise be made a priority.

"Health wise it keeps a lot of things at bay like diabetes and arthritis,” Lara said.

“I have worked with my own Ministry of Education in Trinidad to help people understand its importance,” he said. “We need to get physical education back into the classrooms.”

He said the social benefits to playing sports as a team and even individually were almost as important as the exercise itself.

“When I meet up now for a drink with my old school friends, we don’t talk about the day we did really well in science. We talk about the goal we scored or the day we beat the others in a race.”

He also warned that children and young people should not try to become sports stars because they wanted to be rich and famous, and that it was vital they back up their sporting aspirations with qualifications.

Veron, who became the most expensive player in Britain when he joined Manchester United in 2001 for £28 million, echoed Lara’s sentiments.

“Not everyone has the chance to live like me,” he said. “Most young people have to be prepared to accept they are not going to be famous footballers.”

That is why he has spearheaded a project at Argentine team Club Estudiantes de La Plata, of which he is president, that requires children to do well in their studies before they can play football.

“It’s only normal that children want to play football rather than study,” said Veron.

“We wanted to show them the importance of both exercise and study. There were times when children weren’t allowed to play because they hadn’t got the necessary exam results.

“It wasn’t a nice thing to have to do but when the team lost those games they realised the importance of study and that they were letting down their teammates.”

Updated: March 24, 2019 06:24 PM

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