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Somalia: Ramadan Football Tournament Steadfast in Face of Al-Shabaab Attacks

Thursday, August 08, 2013

As al-Shabaab continues to attack Mogadishu neighbourhoods during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, the city's youths remain unfazed, with football players from Mogadishu's 16 districts competing in the Ramadan Football Tournament cup.

The games in districts with popular teams, such Hodan, Wadajir and Hamar Weyne, have drawn huge crowds.

Each district tournament is independent and will hold its final match in the coming days before Eid al-Fitr. The two finalists in Hodan district are Bakara and Horyaal; in Wadajir, Madina Star and Ma Ma'aanka; and in Hamar Weyne, City Star and Lido.

Games are played every afternoon at 4:30 pm, with hundreds of spectators crowding small stadiums as they wait for iftar, the meal to break the daily fast. The players are also fasting during the match.

But Faarah Abdi, a 21-year-old player for the City Star team in Hamar Weyne district, said fasting does not affect his game.

"I do not feel thirsty or hungry when I play," he said. "The joy and support from our fans is sustaining enough."

The purpose of these games is to promote socialisation among youth, said Mohamed Yasin, 28, one of the organisers of the Hamar Weyne district tournament. "Starting the preparations was not easy. At first we formed a six-member committee that created rules for participating in the Ramadan Football Tournament in our Hamar Weyne district," Yasin said.

To participate, each team must wear a unique uniform and pay between $40 and $50 to purchase gifts for the winning team. "This year is very different from previous years because there has not been a tournament as successful [as this one] before," said Ilyas Yusuf Aw-Nur, head of the Hodan tournament committee. "I am really happy with how people have taken part in sports this Ramadan, showing that people have come back to Mogadishu because of the peace that has returned."

"We will give the winning team a trophy and various other prizes. We will also give prizes to the team that comes in second place, the best player and the best referee," he told Sabahi. "I hope that they will be pleased with some of the gifts." Wadajir district, with its football fields filled with spectators in the evenings, shows how the public is sharing in the joy as the games come to an end, said Omar Hassan, a 26-year-old who plays for Madina Star.

"The return of the Mogadishu public played a big role in encouraging us when we saw them filling the fields we play in," he told Sabahi. "It is a big victory that we have a peaceful environment that we can keep playing in."

Qasim Moalim Abdiqadir, a member of the Hodan football committee, said the Ramadan cup is an important symbol of peace and unity for Mogadishu youth.

"The most important thing is for the public to joyfully share together the progress and peace that has come to Mogadishu as the city comes back to life," he told Sabahi.

The games give youths from different districts the opportunity to come together and interact in a peaceful manner, he said, something that was not allowed when al-Shabaab controlled the city two years ago.


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