By George Katongole
Wednesday June 15, 2022
Proud moment. Mohamed handled his first futsal league games on Saturday at Old Kampala. PHOTOS/George Katongole
When Abukar Ali Mohamed came to Uganda 14 years ago, he was
fleeing war in Somalia. Mohamed was passionate about football, described as one
of the best Somali players in the Kisenyi community, yet he was not confident
enough to tell others what to do.
But now he is fully entrenched in futsal as a referee and no
longer afraid to make big calls as he aims at finding success in the
five-a-side indoor version of football.
Mohamed came to Uganda in 2008 from the capital Mogadishu
where he studied his ordinary level.
According to the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), between
2008 and 2017 the number of registered Somali refugees in the country soared
from 8,239 to 41,234, with 43 per cent of the total registered in Kampala and
the rest in Nakivale refugee settlement.
Those in Kisenyi keep the bond through playing futsal and
“I am really excited to be the first refugee referee in
Uganda, especially considering I came from Somalia not knowing any English,”
Mohamed, 30, could only communicate in Somali, which made
his circle narrow. But after learning English, he is happy that he is
recognised as a top referee.
Making his bow
This will be his first year officiating in the Futsal Super
League after he was on the list of referee appointments for matchday nine and
He was a timekeeper in the opening game of the day between
Kisenyi and Kabowa before he handled the game between newcomers Luzira and
Talent Bridge alongside Majid.
Mohamed started early acting as the referee during Somali
games and was the head referee during the Ramadan Cup. When the Futsal League
was introduced at the International Futsal Courts (IFCU) in Kisenyi – Mengo, he
instead officiated Somali Sports Association of Uganda games organised by
former chairman Omar Ali. He did not take further steps to get his badges.
But when Fifa organised a futsal refereeing course in May,
he was nominated to attend with Abukar Abdi Hirabe. The course attracted 16
Outside futsal, Mohamed is involved in daily hustles of
survival linking Somali traders based in South Sudan yet he would like to get
advanced certification with an eye on the Fifa futsal games.
Before his refereeing took off, Mohamed was playing football
and futsal for the Somali refugee team but Omar gave him some helpful advice.
“Omarios told me to concentrate on refereeing. I now have an
opportunity to help my country when peace finally prevails,” he said.
The power of sports
The immense power of sports in unifying communities cannot
be more evident in Uganda than in futsal’s attractive offers to Somali
community. With most of them settling in Kisenyi slums whenever they touch
base, theirs is a life of earning every bread and coin the hard way. Many of
them face a hard time getting recognition in the wider communities but in
futsal, even refugees who fail to nail their place with local football clubs
have been finding salvation and turning point.