Somalis aiming high after historic FIFA course

An image from the FIFA Grassroots coaching course in Mogadishu, Somalia that took place 15-19 August 2013

After years of unrest and civil war, football in Somalia is set to enter into a new era with FIFA’s first development course in Mogadishu since 1986 finishing today, Monday 19 August 2013, in the city's Banadir stadium.

“This course represented a major milestone for our football,” Secretary General of the Somali Football Federation (SFF), Abdiqani Said Arab, told “It was a great platform for a new generation of Somali people, and a big step towards the normalisation of football in our country. The security situation in Somalia is getting better, and we believe that it’s possible to move things forward.”

Due to security reasons, previous FIFA courses aimed at benefiting the SFF had to take place in Djibouti. “I had the opportunity to lead two courses in Djibouti, and I can confirm that there might not be at this moment in time a FIFA member association who could benefit better from a programme like this,” commented Ulric Mathiot, the FIFA instructor in charge of the five-day course in Mogadishu. “The course is intended to build football from the bottom in Somalia. The SFF has been doing a very good job and together with the continuation of grassroots activities I’m sure that football in Somalia will make great progress.”

During his stay in Mogadishu, Mathiot met with Somalia's Minister for Public Service Development Drs Maryan Qasim, who praised FIFA’s involvement in the country.

There might not be at this moment in time a FIFA member association who could benefit better from a programme like this.

Thirty-one coaches from all over Somalia joined the historic programme. After undergoing intense practical and theoretical training in the areas of football coaching and organisation, a festival involving over 300 children marked the end of the activities on Monday. Coaches are now expected to implement their knowledge at clubs, schools and academies.

While Somalia has been suffering the effects of a devastating civil war since 1991, football has continued to play a fundamental role in the nation located in the Horn of Africa. “During the past years, football has become a key tool in our country since it has diverted young Somali people from war involvement, and it has contributed to peace,” stated SFF Education Officer Ali Ahmed.

The installation of an artificial turf pitch and tribunes in the Banadir stadium, initiated as part of FIFA’s USD 1.6 million Goal project launched in 2006, incurred serious damage during the civil war and Somali football subsequently suffered a major setback. The other main sports arena in the country, the Mogadishu Stadium, is currently occupied by the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). The unstable security situation and the lack of a proper stadium have prevented Somalia’s national team from playing matches on home soil. The side’s last FIFA World Cup™ qualifier in Somalia was played on 27 July 1980.

After the partial destruction of Banadir stadium, FIFA agreed to rebuild the artificial turf and tribunes, which will enable SFF to use the facility for the upcoming edition of the Somali Football League, scheduled to start on 5 September.

“The rebuilding of Banadir stadium has been essential as it will provide us with a suitable venue to play matches on a regular basis and it will become a fundamental asset for our overall strategy,” concluded SFF Secretary General Abdiqani Said Arab. “Our big objective is Russia 2018. It seems a bit of a utopian vision, but the general situation in our country has improved and we are confident that we will be able to trigger a general development in Somali football.”

In addition to grassroots courses and the reconstruction of Banadir stadium, FIFA also made a donation of USD 1 million in emergency aid for the humanitarian crisis affecting Somalia in August 2011.

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