Middle East Online
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Commander of UPDF Land Forces Lieutenant General Edward Katumba Wamala addresses soldiers of the 7th Batallion in the Somali National Stadium, Mogadishu.
MOGADISHU - The Somali Football federation officials asked the African Union peacekeepers in Somalia (AMISOM) to vacate the country's largest football facility Stadium Mogadishu during an official visit to the site on Monday.
Somali Football Federation president Ali Said Guled Rooble and Secretary General Abdi Qani Said Arab held a lengthy meeting with the commander of AU peacekeepers stationed at Stadium Mogadishu Captain Angua and other military officials during which they discussed on the possibility of AU troops to withdraw from the facility.
"Today we are at stadium Mogadishu on an official visit which has two main objectives, one was to assess and know the real situation of the stadium and the other was to ask the African Union peacekeepers to vacate from the stadium so that we can host the next edition of regional football tournament for peace and development here by December this year" Somali Football Federation Secretary General Abdi Qani Said Arab told the media during the visit.
"In December 2010 we held the first edition of regional football tournament in more than 20 years and that tournament had yielded positive results in terms of disarming child soldiers, creating friendship among people and spreading football throughout the country" the secretary General said adding that the tournament also helped people who lived in regions controlled by hostile warlords or opposing Islamist groups get a chance to cross from region to region.
The Somali Football Federation officials demanded the AMISOM officials in the meeting to vacate the facility and help the SFF accomplish its duties at the stadium in a bid to help the football-crazy Somali people get a chance to come and watch matches there after many years of absence.
Secretary General Abdi Qani Said Arab told the media that at the end of the lengthy meeting Captain Angua who commands the AU troops at Stadium Mogadishu told them they can pay visit to the facility any time they need, but told they cannot hold any football competitions there.
"This is time to get the Somali soccer facilities back to the SFF hands, because our football is now recovering from years of conflicts and all soccer facilities must get back to our hands" SFF secretary General Abdi Qani Said Arab told the media
"We are really very happy with your arrival here at Stadium Mogadishu, but what I can tell you is that the stadium cannot host any competitions at the present moment because it is currently a military ground and our withdrawal from here depends on the Somali government and the top AMISOM commander's acceptance---I cannot say about any withdrawals now" Captain Angua told the visiting Somali Football Federation officials.
The president of Somali Football Federation Ali Said Guled Roble who talked to the media during the visit thanked the AU troops for the high level reception. The president said that his federation intends to host the country's regional football tourney for peace and development by December
Stadium Mogadishu was built for Somalia by Chinese government in 1978 and one time it was the largest and the most beautiful facility in Africa and the Arab world. It hosted many international competitions including All Arab games, All African games, the CECAFA tournament and many others.
For the past 22 years of lack of a functioning government in Somalia, stadium Mogadishu has experienced the most difficult times yet and it several times changed into military compound for foreign troops in Somalia.
In 1993 the facility was occupied by the US peacekeepers who operated in Somalia early 1990s.
In January 2007 Stadium Mogadishu fell into the hands of Ethiopian forces who were based there until they withdrew from Somalia early 2009. It then fell into the hands of notorious Al-shabaab fighters who used it as a training base before they were forced out of capital by Somali government
forces and AU troops in August 2011. Since last year stadium Mogadishu has been house to thousands of African Union peacekeepers helping the fragile Somali government.