The annual inter-state football tournament in Somalia, organised by the Ministry of Sports, has become a beacon of hope and peace for many youths in the Horn of Africa nation.
Despite reported opposition from sections of the Somali Football Federation (SFF) which is reluctant to sanction the event, the competition has so far witnessed an overwhelming response from football enthusiasts, inspiring the organisers to further elevate the standards of the tournament in subsequent years.
With attendance in some of the matches drawing as many as 50,000 spectators, the government is keen to use the competition to nurture talent, create jobs and bring harmony to the communities which have been bogged down by civil strife for the past three decades.
The last four editions of the tournament have been held in Mogadishu, with each edition marking a significant milestone in the nation’s enthusiasm for the sport.
“Our youth football team qualified for the continental championship last year. That was a wakeup call for us to get involved in talent development,” said Mogadishu Mayor Yusuf Hussein Jimale.
“We will offer these kids an enabling environment to play, and especially by guaranteeing their security. Sports will help the Somalia economy grow in many ways,” he said.
Jimale’s sentiments were echoed by former Sports Minister Abdullahi Nuh.
“Such competitions help us come up with a pool of talent for the national teams which have been competing at regional and continental championships,” Nuh said.
Despite the challenges faced by Somalia, particularly in terms of national security, the Banaadir region administration has played a crucial role in hosting and accommodating all the players and delegations attending the tournament in Mogadishu.
Their efforts have greatly contributed to the success of the tournament, highlighting the commitment of the local authorities towards promoting sports in the region.
Last year, after nearly three decades, the tournament returned to its traditional venue, Mogadishu Stadium. The stadium proved a suitable venue that enhanced the overall experience for players and spectators alike.
Given the high number of fans who attended the tournament, special police forces and additional security personnel were deployed at the venue. However, there no reports of any significant security breaches during the first eight games.
This milestone reflected the great progress made in terms of infrastructural development and security conditions in Mogadishu.
Revive the tournament
This remarkable achievement was made possible through the efforts of Minister of Youth and Sports Mohamed Barre Mohamud.
His vision and determination to revive the tournament in the capital city have breathed new life into the competition.
The Ministry also plays a pivotal role in ensuring proper infrastructure, logistics, and overall coordination of the tournament.
Meanwhile, Banaadir and Jubaland have progressed to the second round two of the tournament after impressing in the opening matches. They have been joined by favourites Hirshabelle and Galmudug.
The draw for the knockout stages of the tournament is expected to be held on Saturday pending clearance from the Somalia Football Federation (SFF).
The top three teams in the tournament will be rewarded with prize money, trophies, medals and kits.
By Hussein Mohamed, Journalist and Communications Consultant.