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Put down the gun, pick up the ball


Put down the gun, pick up the ball

Sports writer, Omar Almasri, introduces readers to Somalia, a country trying to revive its football culture, after years of turmoil, unrest, separation, devastation and divide within its people. Using football, the Somali Football Federation launches a new campaign to encourage young Somalis to take up football and to stay away from guns and violence.

Engaging the country in football

The 'Put down the gun, pick up the ball' campaign is an initiative by the Somali Football Federation to encourage citizens to engage in sport instead of violence. The federation has also appointed technical and administrative representatives in Europe and North America to promote and gain support for the national side and to receive funds to rebuild football-related infrastructure and for new and better football attire.

The federation has also launched coaching courses to create young coaches for football development in the country. The first of the courses was launched in May 2011 at the center of the Somali Students Union in Mogadishu. At least 28 young Somali football coaches participated in this 12 day course, which the federation promises to, hold once every six months. They have also confirmed that Somalia will be playing in the preliminary round of World Cup 2014 Qualifiers against Ethiopia in November, and that the national team will be participating in the annual Council of East and Central Africa Football Associations (CECAFA) Senior Challenge Cup in Tanzania and the All Arab Games in Doha which were held in November and December, respectively.

Attracting new players

The chaos and turmoil of the country has affected the sport in Somalia, with young, potential footballers being either recruited by these militant groups or being too frightened for their lives to play football.

Militant group, Al Shabab, dominated the headlines, not only for their crimes, but also for their stance on football in Somalia. The group banned Somalis from playing and watching their most popular sport on TV and has threatened to kill anyone caught doing either. During the World Cup in South Africa, two young Somalis were killed after being caught watching a match on television and rising football star Abdi Salaan Mohamed Ali, died in a car bombing which killed 10 others. Journalists are also targeted, as a Somali journalist was killed in March 2012, after covering a football match and the President of the Somali Football Federation has narrowly escaped an assassination attempt as well.

It is hard to retain good players in such an environment, so many play go on to international football clubs overseas. Somalia’s all time international top scorer and captain Issa Aden Abshir (also known as Cisse Aadan Abshir), is a star forward for Norwegian side Eidsvold Turn. Other Somalian players abroad include: Liban Abdi (currently playing in Hungry), Ayub Daud, (currently playing for the Juventus youth team) and Abisalam Ibrahim (currently playing for Manchester City).

Despite the national side possessing gifted and wonderful talent, the team is ranked 192 in the FIFA rankings and 49th amongst African nations. This new campaign will hopefully bring new stars to the forefront of Somalia again.


Article type



Omar Almasri


Sunday, March 11, 2012 - 23:00