Somalia: See how our beautiful game, football, is awakening the joie de vivre for many Somalis

December 27, 2015 OPINION/NEWS

By

Adisa Amanor Wilks

In the news for all the wrong reasons, but elsewhere, football is restoring hope to a disillusioned generation in the boomerang-shaped east African country– Somalia

Men yielding guns pacing up and down towns and villages, starving children with swollen bellies with flies hovering around their faces. For many, this is the image Somalia evokes – A country full of pain, suffering and war. These are the stereotypes that the media perpetuate. Yes, for so many years, Somalia was engulfed in war and to some extent still has some remnants of it lurking about.

However, there is a very positive development in Somalia that deserves our attention – Football – that unifying factor that can bring a war ravaged nation together. Football is taking root in this east African country.

Football is the most popular sport in Somalia – a country with an estimated 10 million people. The sport is making a slow yet visible and positive comeback in that country.

Stadiums that had long been destroyed in the war are seeing fresh bright paint and new green artificial grass pitches. Some stadiums in Mogadishu are even seeing newly rebuilt stands and businesses are clamouring to sponsor the league.

 

 

Yes, this is the new Somalia, where many are embracing a new future with hope. Somalia is no longer a failed state.

Historically, football has played an important role in mending rifts between nations. Remember the famous Christmas Day 1914 truce during World War I in Flanders, Belgium, when German and British troops put down their guns for a day to play football? (England won). What about the famous Brazilian football star Pelé’s 1969 trip to Nigeria with his soccer club, Santos, which resulted in a three-day cease-fire in the Biafran War?

And most recently when the Ivory Coast came together to support their national team play in the World Cup. This is the power of the game.

For most places in Africa, you don’t need a fancy grass pitch or all 22 players, jerseys or even shoes. All you need is a ball and people willing to play. It’s a game for all.

This is why this latest development in Somalia is worth highlighting. Football has the power that politicians crave. It conquers fears and brings people from differing backgrounds together. It gives people an identity and a cause to rally around either to celebrate a win or despair over a loss.

So on December 28, when Somalia’s national football league kicks off, it will be worth celebrating, even just for the fact that this once war-torn country can now organise a game that many Somalis are passionate about. Apart from enjoying football, it also represents hope for the future for many disillusioned young people searching for something to cling on to in their beloved country.

To allow local football fans time to follow other leagues around the world, the Somalia Football Federation has scheduled fixtures for Monday to Friday, with a 10-team league. There are at least 20 foreign players in the league, many of whom joined in the last year.

Again, last week, for the first time, a Somali football match was broadcast live on local television. The General Da’ud Cup final saw Military club Horseed beat police team Heegan FC 2-1.

For many Somalis, this was a breakthrough.

For $0.50 per game many can watch their local stars play live.

Somalia is slowly turning a corner, and one day it will make that full turn and reach out to its many sons and daughters scattered around the world. And there is a glimpse of this new Somalia already, thanks to football.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adisa Amanor Wilks

Adisa is an experienced international journalist and charity communications professional. I dream of when the African narrative will change to reflect the hope and beauty of the people.

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