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Somali Soccer Fans Go Underground
June 10, 2010

Children play with a soccer ball on an Indian Ocean beach near Somalia`s capital Mogadishu, March 5, 2010. REUTERS

MOGADISHU, Somalia—World Cup madness has come to this troubled nation, creating a dangerous cat-and-mouse game between fans eager to watch televised soccer matches and Islamic militants determined to stop them.

The militia group al Shabaab, which controls most of south and central Somalia, has declared the World Cup un-Islamic and banned watching the games on television. By al Shabaab`s logic, the World Cup interferes with the militant group`s “jihad,” to overthrow the government, because young Somalis are too busy watching the games to fight on their behalf. While the group hasn`t yet laid out specific consequences for those defying the ban, the militants have been known to behead or amputate limbs of people who oppose them.

Undeterred Somali soccer fans, whose national team failed to qualify for the tournament, are going underground in search of ways to watch the world`s largest televised sporting event, which opens Friday in South Africa.

In recent days, wealthier Somalis in both government-controlled and and al Shabaab run areas have been lining up at electronics shops to buy satellite dishes to watch at home. Local technicians will—for a fee—patch together dishes and wires to rig televisions to show the games.

“I don`t like my children watching TV—but I don`t want to miss watching the World Cup,” said Abdullahi Sheikh, a 49-year-old Mogadishu resident who was in line to buy a television and a dish at a shop in town. “It`s an amazing event to watch!”

Al Shabaab controls much of Somalia by force. But the militant group`s ad-hoc prohibitions have alienated most Somalis. At various times, and in various places around the country, the militants have banned mustaches, dancing and celebrating religious holidays.

For followers of the World Cup, the most dangerous ban is the one on soccer. In 2006, the militant group, which was then the armed wing of the government, the Union of Islamic Courts, launched a violent campaign against Somali fans.

War-weary Somalis don`t have the means to fend off al Shabaab, which has sworn to overthrow the government of President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, and the government remains too weak to defeat the militants. Government troops had to fend off a recent attack on the on the presidential palace.

The only public place to watch games safely is at Dhamuke Cinema, part of a small patch of government-controlled territory in the capital Mogadishu.

These days, the only public place to watch games safely is at the Dhamuke Cinema, part of a small patch of government-controlled territory in the capital Mogadishu. Dhamuke remains one of the few cinemas al Shabaab hasn`t destroyed or shut down. The cinema hosts hundreds of teenagers from around the city to watch movies and soccer matches via satellite.

Dhamuke, which is open every day from 10 a.m. to midnight, is almost always full of young people eager to escape the social strictures imposed in other parts of Somalia. Boys and girls are allowed to sit together—a taboo in al Shabaab-controlled areas. Older soccer addicts also occupy the folding metal chairs.

On nights when soccer isn`t on, the audience watches whatever else is on hand—American movies, Bollywood flicks and films in Swahili and Somali. When one finishes, another reel starts rolling. Price of admission is 2,000 Somali shillings, or about $1.25.

Outside of the government-run area, the cinemas will be dark because showing the games is too dangerous. Over the past few years, militants have hurled grenades into cinemas in several towns, killing and injuring people.

In a Mogadishu café on a recent afternoon, young men huddled to discuss their plans for watching the game. “If we have no jobs and can`t watch or play football it`s heartbreaking—and unacceptable,” said Said Haji, a 22-year-old Somali sipping coffee. Mr. Haji lives in the government-controlled area, and will be able to go to the cinema. “Some of my friends don`t have that chance,” he says.

Some young men say militants have deprived them of one of their only means of entertainment. “We can`t play football, we have no cinemas to watch the World Cup and we don`t have jobs,” said Mohamed Nur, a 24-year-old World Cup fan. “We wake up, and go to sleep, alone.”

But not all Somali soccer fans have been dissuaded. People who can`t find a cinema are likely to tune into local radio stations that broadcast soccer matches, which haven`t yet been banned by al Shabaab. They can also look up scores in Internet cafés. And at informal gatherings, men of every age will debate the merits of their favorite teams late into the night—and as it happens in so many places, sometimes come to blows.

— Each week, Africa Dispatch takes a snapshot of a different African place, offering a ground-level view of change on the continent.

Somali Islamists shoot to stop English soccer viewing
By Guled Mohamed
September 17, 2006

Children flock to soccer fields in the city center as Thursdays mark the start of the Islamic weekend. September 2006, Photo: The New York Times.

MOGADISHU, Sept 17 (Reuters) - Somali Islamist militia shot in the air on Sunday to disperse hundreds of youths watching an English Premiership soccer match, with two people injured in the melee, witnesses said.

Somalis have welcomed the Islamists` pacification of their capital since they took it over in June, but they are increasingly unhappy at signs of religious extremism such as closing down public viewing of films and sport.

Nearly 400 youths packed into the Duale cinema during the afternoon for the big game between Chelsea and Liverpool.

But they scattered when 30 militiamen rolled up on a battlewagon and ordered them out, witnesses said.

When some of the youths started throwing stones and burning tyres in protest, the militiamen opened fire.

“Two youths were injured, one was shot in the thigh while the other sustained hand injuries,” local resident Abdullahi Mohamed told Reuters on the scene.

“The youths started throwing stones at the militias who had to shoot in the sky. ... Maybe during the commotion the militia shot the youths accidentally,” he added.

Critics of Somalia`s Islamists, who control a southern swathe, say they plan a Taliban-style rule.

The movement`s leaders want Somalia to be ruled by sharia law, but insist they have no intention of instituting a strict Taliban-style system. They say their main aim is to re-impose law and order after 15 years of anarchy and chaos since warlords ousted a dictator in 1991.

The Islamists` rise has challenged the aspirations of Somalia`s Western-backed interim government, which is based in the provincial town of Baidoa and is militarily weak.

In a separate incident on Sunday, one man died when freelance militiamen in south Somalia clashed with bodyguards driving alongside Somali lawmaker Abdirashid Hidig, who was going towards the town of Dobley from the port of Kismayo.

“One militiaman was killed and another one wounded,” local elder Abdi Inshar told Reuters. “We heard shots.”

It was not immediately clear what caused the fight.

But fatal clashes between different militia groups are common in Somalia, often caused by local clan disputes.

© 2006 Reuters Limited

Two killed in Somalia for viewing World Cup
July 05, 2006

NAIROBI, July 5 (Xinhua) -- Islamic militiamen have killed two people in central Somalia after opening fire in a cinema where people were watching a banned World Cup match.

Sources said the shooting, which also left several people injured, occurred late Tuesday when soccer fans barred by Islamists from watching the semi-final match between Germany and Italy protested at the ban.

Militia loyal to the Supreme Council of Islamic Courts (SCIC), who seized control of parts of Somalia last month, reportedly killed the cinema owner and a young girl.

Reports from the scene said the shooting came when militiamen in the central town of Dusa Mareb -- the home area of the Islamists` hardline leader Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys -- shut a cinema showing the Germany-Italy semi-final.

The SCIC who kicked U.S.-backed alliance of warlords out of Mogadishu then took control of a large swathe of southern Somalia last month, have introduced Sharia law in areas under their authority, including a World Cup broadcast ban.

This has included in some parts a ban on cinemas and on broadcasts of World Cup games because they have carried advertisements for alcohol.

According to reports, the gunmen arrived to close down the cinema in the town, where a crowd had gathered to watch the Germany-Italy World Cup semi-final.

Some of the football fans began to protest and according to reports, the gunmen fired in the air in an attempt to disperse them.

When this failed, shots were fired at the demonstrators and two people were killed, leaving at least four injured.

World Cup broadcast ban has drawn anger from football lovers in the Horn of Africa nation with clerics arguing that some elements, notably advertisements for alcoholic beverages, are evil.

The Islamic courts first began to close down cinema halls showing Hollywood and Bollywood films last year as their influence expanded, arguing that the presentations contravened their strict interpretation of Islam.

Somalia has lacked a functioning central authority since the country was plunged into anarchy with the 1991 ouster of strongman Mohamed Siad Barre.

© Copyright 2006 Xinhua News Agency

Three Somalis killed in grenade attack following dispute over British soccer teams
January 13, 2005

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) - A Somali apparently angered by a dispute over British soccer teams threw a grenade into a Mogadishu building where men were watching a game, killing three people and wounding seven others, witnesses and hospital officials said Thursday.

Two boys died on the spot and one other died later at a hospital following the attack late Wednesday, nurses said. Two of the seven people wounded were in a critical condition.

The victims were among about 160 soccer fans watching a game between British teams Chelsea and Manchester United when the grenade was thrown into the building, said Abdi Nasir Ali Ganey, who owns the property.

Witnesses said a fight broke out between Manchester United and Chelsea fans before the attack.

“Two young men, one of them armed with a pistol, first fought inside the cinema before the unarmed one ran out to his home to get a gun,” said Farah Sa`id, who lives near the hall. “But instead he took a hand grenade and threw into the” building.

Somalia has not had an effective central government since dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was ousted in 1991 and is divided between clan-based militias.

© 2005. The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

Violence, shootout and lost cup spoil Somali soccer match
Associated Press Writer
January 08, 1997

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) - It began as a friendly soccer match. It ended with one of the players opening fire on a rival team from the wrong clan and wrong half of the capital.

The violence occurred Sunday at the final of the 1997 Peace Cup - the Somali soccer championship - between Elman, the south Mogadishu favorite, and Faynus, the team from the northern half of city.

In the 65th minute, with the score 1-0 in favor of Elman, the referee annulled a goal scored by Faynus. One of the Faynus players knocked him out.

North Mogadishu militiamen, on whose territory the finals were being played, quickly moved in with guns to control the situation.

Another Faynus player grabbed the machine gun from one of the fighters and opened fire at random.

No one was hurt as players, referees, spectators and members of Somalia`s Football Federation all ducked for cover. The shooting lasted five minutes before the player was disarmed and the Elman team escorted across the so-called green line to south Mogadishu.

Most of Elman players are from the Habr Gedir clan, which is at war with the Abgals who control north Mogadishu - and whose members play on Faynus.

The most prominent Habr Gedir is Hussein Aidid Farrah, son of the late Gen. Mohamed Farrah Aidid. Aidid controls part of south Mogadishu and claims to be the president of Somalia.

Somalia has had no functioning central government since the late dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was ousted from power in January 1991 and the country broke up along clan lines.

But even the six years of factional fighting could not kill the passion for soccer, the most popular game in Somalia. It is played on the sandy beaches of the Indian Ocean by children and adults alike.

The Peace Cup, sponsored by a coalition of 18 Somali women`s organizations, brought together four teams selected from among Mogadishu`s top ten.

After Sunday`s violence, the Somali Football Federation penalized Faynus for its “evil action” and awarded the 1-0 winner Elman with the Cup.

But the federation could not present the team with the cup.

It had been stolen during the scuffle.

©cCopyright 1997. The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

By Mark Gleeson
December 12, 1994

NAIROBI, Dec 12 (Reuter) - Somalia, buoyed by this month`s return to international soccer competition after a four-year absence, is to enter future FIFA and African tournaments, the Somali Football Federation said on Monday.

“We are setting 1996 as a target date for our re-entry into official competition,” federation chairman Farah Addo, in Nairobi for Sunday`s African Cup Winners` Cup final, said.

Somalia sent a team to the East and Central African Senior Challenge Cup in Kenya earlier this month. It was the first time the east African country has participated in an international competition since the overthrow of former president Siad Barre`s government in 1991, which plunged it into chaos.

No Somali side had played an international match since 1990.

“We want to enter teams in the 1996 African club competitions as well as junior sides in the African qualifiers for the world under-20 and under-17 championships in 1997,” Addo said.

Somalia next month will send a club team, Morris Company, to the East and Central African Club Championships in Tanzania.

But the country will find it more difficult to play in the FIFA and Confederation of African Football (CAF) events as sports facilities are wrecked and finding a foreign team willing to play in Mogadishu could prove difficult.

Somalia lost two matches in the East and Central African Senior Challenge Cup -- to hosts Kenya and to Tanzania -- but beat Djibouti 2-1 in their third and final game of the two-week tournament.

“We are hoping to get outside help to rebuild the national stadium in Mogadishu but our facilities are not in good shape at the moment,” said Addo, who also serves as an executive committee member of CAF.

“We have informal leagues at regional and districts level, which run for two months or so, and there are now clubs which are also being re-formed.”

The national stadium, scarred by bullets and mortar shells, is regularly used for political rallies by clan leader Mohamed Farah Aideed.

“It`s taking a lot of time to get things going but we are just happy to be able to take part. For the moment we cannot do more than that,” Addo, a former mayor of Mogadishu, said.

Somalia`s previous international match was an under-23 African qualifier for the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona.

Their national side had not played at full international level since 1986, when beaten 5-0 by Uganda.

Despite failing to reach the semifinals of the eight-team East and Central African Senior Challenge Cup, Addo said they were elated with their performance.

“We were just happy to succeed in sending a team to show that football is still alive in our country,” he said.

© 1994 Reuters Limited

AC Milan owner to help rebuild Somali stadium
April 26, 1993

MOGADISHU, April 26, Reuter - AC Milan owner Silvio Berluscone and Italian and U.S. forces in Somalia will help rebuild Somalia`s 30,000-seat Benadir soccer stadium, U.S. special envoy Robert Gasende said on Monday.

Gasende said Berluscone had provided several hundred tonnes of food which would be handed to Somalis working on site in a “food for work” scheme at the partly bombed-out stadium.

The Italian and U.S. forces would provide other materials and technical manpower for the reconstruction, expected to be complete in less than a month.

“Mr Berluscone and our combined effort will result in Somalis living in the capital having a soccer facility worth the name again,” Gasende said.

Gasende did not say how much Berluscone`s aid was valued at. “It is a lot, but we cannot say how much.”

© 1993 Reuters Limited

At Least 65 Killed At Soccer Match, Diplomats Say
July 10, 1990

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) _ Security forces opened fire on a crowd at a soccer game in Somalia after “provocateurs” began stoning the president, a Somali official said Tuesday. Diplomatic sources said at least 65 people were killed, but the Somali government said only three people died.

Unofficial fatality estimates in Friday`s shootings in Mogadishu, the Somali capital, range as high as 109, according to one diplomatic source, who said 65 people were confirmed dead at the city`s Digfer Hospital.

More than 100 people were seriously injured, another source said.

But Abbudllahi Farah Barre, first secretary at the Somali Embassy in Rome, insisted only three people were killed in the stadium shooting. He said he did not have exact figures on the number of injured.

He said security forces opened fire after “some provocateurs” began throwing rocks at President Mohammed Siad Barre. He said the security forces first fired in the air, then on the crowd as it continued to throw rocks and began to pelt security officers.

On Saturday, the Somali Ministry of Labor, Sports and Social Affairs dismissed the incident as a “chance accident” and said it had sent condolences to the victims` families. It also said three people were killed.

The ministry blamed the incident on crowding and said people had been hit by bullets when security forces fired “high into the air” to maintain peace.

International telephone connections to Somalia were not working Tuesday and it was not immediately possible to contact anyone in Mogadishu.

Somalia is an impoverished nation on the Horn of Africa. In recent years, the government steadily has lost control of much of the nation`s countryside to insurgencies and warring clans.

Siad Barre has ruled the predominantly Moslem nation since seizing power in a coup in 1969.

©Copyright 1990. The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

Young boys play football (soccer) amongst ruined building of Mogadishu`s Shingani district.

Veiled Somali Girls Playing ["xalaal"] Soccer

Sawirro Somaliya


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