Football in Djibouti
The football federation in Djibouti (FDF) was established in 1979 and joined CAF in 1986 and FIFA, eight years later in 1994. The national side played its first ever match in 1947 against neighbors Ethiopia. Djibouti has never qualified to either the African Nations Cups or the World Cup ever since they began competing in official competitions in 1998. The country has its own Premier League which features 10 clubs but the league has suffered interruptions over the years due to domestic tensions between the nation’s two ethnic groups, Issa and Afar, which led to a terrible Civil War that lasted about three years from 1991-1994. Due to these tensions and conflicts, the league was not played in 1989, 1990, 1992 and 1993.
Current state of play
Djibouti’s football clubs generally perform very poorly in continental competitions, as well as its national side. Poor financial conditions in the country led to the withdrawal of 2008 league champions, Socialite Immobiliere de Djibouti (SID) from the CECAFA Club Championship in the same year. The country has a huge shortage of quality sports infrastructure with only one recognised, international standard football stadium in the Stade du Vile located in the capital. Like most countries in the continent, Djibouti suffers from high unemployment, with about 60% reportedly unemployed in 2005, low wages and high cost of living (the cheapest meat costs more than half a day’s salary), and poverty which definitely affects the state of the sport in the country where it relies on financial support from the US and France as hosts of their military bases. The issues the country have been facing led to pro-democracy protests earlier this year that called for the end of the Guelleh family’s 34 year reign as rulers of Djibouti. These conditions are the main reasons why Djibouti were forced to withdraw from the Cup of Nations qualifiers in 2004 and 2008, and why they didn’t participate in the 2012 edition and why they won’t participate in the 2013 edition either.
In 2006 FIFA launched the GOAL campaign in Djibouti to “add new infrastructure and training equipment to improve fitness levels and medical care for the benefit of coaches, technical instructors and referees.” FIFA also teamed up with UNICEF to use football as a way to help protect young Djiboutians against HIV/AIDS, which is a problem due to the growing rates of prostitution in the country. The FDF has also donated different kinds of football equipment to 17 national football squads and 60 clubs across the country. This has helped in the growth of women’s football, with more teams getting established all around the country and not just being confined in the capital of Djibouti City, which has been another problem that has been facing the sport in the country.
Improving training in East Africa
Djibouti has also helped its neighboring countries like Somalia in their footballing progress by hosting a high-level FIFA refereeing course earlier this year for Somali referees. The country has also hosted a few matches for Somalia’s national team due to the security concerns and issues Somalia is facing. FDF President Hussain Fadoul Dabar ran for Leodegar Tenga’s seat as Chairman of CECAFA this year, which Tenga (who’s also the President of Tanzania’s Football Federation) has held since 2008. Unfortunately, Fadoul was placed under house arrest just days before the election, due to disagreements with Djibouti’s sports minister, Jama Elmi Ukiye, which have been ongoing since May and Tenga won the election unopposed.
The future of football
Despite Djibouti’s progress and initiatives to improve football in the country, the East African nation is still considered one of Africa’s weakest sides and still underperforms in continental competitions. I hope that the country continues its development and that we will see the national side in a top continental or international tournament and compete for honors in the near future.
Read the full post on the In Bed with Maradona website