Voice of Sport

Somalia’s stout effort in Kigali as Kenya humiliated by Botswana in Olympic football

Somalia looking to return to full international programme as Fifa official says football progress remarkable while officiating in referees’ education in Mogadishu


SOMALIA, the second lowest African nation in the Fifa World Rankings dared one of the leading countries in East and Central Africa in last weekend’s 2016 Olympic Games football qualifiers.

Rwanda (74th in the world), only bettered in the Cecafa [Council of East and Central Africa Football Associations] region by Uganda (72nd) were left thinking they played very well after an injury-time goal gave them a 2-0 first leg win over the Somalia, ranked 206 in the world — only ahead of the bottom Djibouti (207).

Overall

Rwanda coach Johnny McKinstry was bemusedly left praising his team for a “good performance over Somalia.”

He said: “To be 2-0 at the end of the first leg of the tie is very pleasing. Overall, my assessment is that we could have done better. I think that our second half performance was below the standards we set ourselves.” Clearly, he was alluding to a home team having “survived”.

Dramatic

In the 17th minute, midfielder Yannick Mukunzi opened the scoring with a header from a Jean-Marie Vianney Muvandimwe free-kick to find the back of the net past Somalian goalkeeper Mustaf Khalib Hussein.

Somalia would have dramatically equalised when Abdinasir Yusuf Ahmed was brought down by Bonfils Kabanda just outside the penalty box but Abdikarim Abdalle’s free- kick was just saved in the nick of time by ‘keeper Marcel Nzarora.

Stoppage

Thereafter, the home team was to be limited to their 1-0 lead which looked like it would be the final score but substitute Kevin Muhire’s strike in stoppage time from 40 yards on the left flank curved into the goal past Hussein.

Rwanda came off feeling as if they had gone against a football giant. A Somalia official, Amir Hassan said: “We are serious about our football. We were well prepared, even arriving here [in Kigali] four days earlier and, at our own cost, readying ourselves for the match.

Injury time

“Going down 0-1 would have put us in a fine position in the return match but now we may rue conceding that injury time goal. However, we shall work at reversing the score in the return. I promise you we shall do it.”

Back in Mogadishu, a Fifa official was commenting on the unbelievable progress that Somalia was making in football since relative peace returned to the country after over 20 years of war and lawlessness.

Tuesday

Fifa refereeing development officer, Ahmed El Shenawi, said he saw progress in Somalia, naming the country’s current FA president, Abdiqani Said Arab, a “symbol for Somali sport” in general. El Shenawi was opening a Fifa refereeing course on Tuesday.

A total of 25 elite referees including national and international, are benefiting from the three-day course which is being conducted by the Fifa RDO officer, El Shenawi (Egypt) and Hassan Mohamed Hassan (Jordan).

Seriousness

El Shenawi noted Fifa’s commitment to develop football around the world but pointed out Somalia had embraced the opportunity with seriousness. Pointing at the Somalia Football Federation [SFF] President Said Arab, El Shenawi said: “This man is a symbol for Somali football and sport in general.

“I first met him in 2009. The situation in Somalia was not good. And this man was fighting for Somalia football, because the last Fifa refereeing course was held in the country as far back as in the 1980s. For a long time there was no course for Somalia referees due to lawlessness.”

Support

Somalia’s recent involvement in international football has been restricted to Cecafa events — the Cecafa Challenge Cup and the Cecafa Kagame Cup Club Championship — but, Hassan said: “We have had so much support from Fifa in many aspects of managing football. We are on the verge of returning to the full international programme.

“We are in the Olympic qualifiers, we missed out on the draw for the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers but we hope to be in the World Cup qualifiers and all other tournaments, including at age-groups level.”

Fancied

Incidentally, when Somalia were having such a stout effort against the highly fancied Rwanda in Kigali, Kenya (world rank No. 117) were being humiliated via a 3-0 away defeat at the hands of Botswana (104).

Somalia hope to reverse the 0-2 deficit in a return with Rwanda they hope to play in Nairobi on May 9. “Unfortunately,” Said Hassan, “in our initial attempt to confirm the fixture in Nairobi, we met strange lack of co-operation from our counterparts, Football Kenya Federation [FKF].

Capital

“I cannot understand that [FKF] attitude. Nevertheless, I hope we shall receive a Government assurance as soon as possible that we can host Rwanda in Nairobi.”

Somalia hope to be able to host international football fixtures in Mogadishu as soon as possible. The successful Nation Link Telecom League is now a popular feature in the Somalian capital with most league clubs employing up to five foreign players each from Kenya, Burundi, Uganda and Nigeria.”

Under way

During the ongoing Fifa course in Mogadishu, former Somalia National Olympic Committee president and [NOCSOM], now honorary life president, Abdulkader Ibrahim Ga’al, praised Somalia FA officials for the huge soccer development programs under way in the country.

“Football was played in Somalia since around 1939, through a pre-independence period and after independence football in the country began to grow, but the current level of the game is by far more sophisticated and developed than what we had during the period 1960-1990. This is because the knowledge of football has grown.”

Important

The SFF Senior Vice president, Ali Abdi Mohamed, added that for the past five, his federation had been prioritising the enhancement of knowledge in particularly, refereeing, coaching and administration which are very important for the promotion of football. But he added that SFF spent much energy and time in the refereeing development area than any other sector.

The SFF President Said Arab paid special tribute to the late Farah Addow a former head of the Somalia FA and the Somalia National Olympic Committee. Addow also spent nearly 20 years serving as chairperson of CAF referees’ committee.

Sepp Blatter

“I would also like to thank Fifa President, Joseph S Blatter and his committee for their commitment to help Somalian football continue to develop in this previously war-ravaged country.”

The country’s Deputy Minister for Youth and Sport, Osman Aden Dhuubow said:

Promotion

“On behalf of the entire football family in Somalia, I would like to highlight the huge appreciation and commitment of our Minister for Youth and Sport in soccer matters. He is always beside us in all efforts regarding football promotion.

“The name Fifa is very great because people in every tiny village in the world know Fifa; because of football’s huge influence. So on behalf of Somalia Government, I am really very happy that Fifa have arrived in Somalia and I want to thank the SFF president for developing good co-operation with FIFA.”

FIFA rankings of countries mentioned in this article:

–       Uganda (72)

–       Rwanda (74)

–       Botswana (104)

–       Kenya (117)

–       Somalia (206)

–       Djibouti (207)

–  Additional reporting by Shafi’i Mohyaddin Abokar, Media Officer, Somalia Football Federation