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Somalia's U-17 football team primed for historic debut at Africa Cup of Nations

Wednesday April 19, 2023

MOGADISHU, SOMALIA - In a significant milestone, Somalia's U-17 football team is set to participate in the TOTAL Energies Africa Cup of Nations, hosted in Algeria from April 29 to May 19. As they prepare for the tournament, the team will be reinforced by players from Sweden, Norway, and Canada. Their imminent debut follows an impressive victory in the CECAFA U-17 Championship in October 2022, where they triumphed with a 3-1 win over South Sudan.

Somalia's U-17 football team is bolstering its ranks as Idiris Abdiwahab Aden, a talented midfielder from Sweden who currently plays for IFK Uddevalla, joined the squad in Addis Ababa. In addition, Yassin Abdirahman from Norway has already joined the team, further strengthening their lineup. Unfortunately, Mohammed Fuad of Feyenoord and Nuurdin Ali of BK Hacken will not be on the roster. Despite these absences, the team remains optimistic.

A farewell dinner ceremony was held for the team last week, attended by government ministers, lawmakers, diplomats, and Somali football family members, including Somali Football Federation (SFF) president Ali Abdi Mohamed. The SFF and the Ministry for Youth and Sport jointly organized the event.

Somalia's Minister of Youth and Sport, Mohamed Barre Mohamud, expressed gratitude to Djahid Abdelwahab, the president of the Algerian football federation, for accommodating the team's stay in Algeria for six days beginning on April 16. Wishing the team success in the tournament, the minister pledged to arrange a pilgrimage to Mecca Al Mukarrama for the team if they qualified for the FIFA U-17 World Cup. "Last year, you brought victory to Somalia, and this year, we are cheering you on to elevate Somalia's standing even higher," he said.

Hormuud Telecom, the leading network provider in Somalia, announced during the dinner that it would partially sponsor the Somali U-17 squad's Africa Cup of Nations campaign, committing a generous $20,000 donation. Abdihakim Mohamed Qasim, the head of media and public relations at Hormuud Telecom, expressed his satisfaction with the strong relationship between the company and the SFF.

Abdiwahab Moalim Mohamed, Somalia's ambassador to Algeria, revealed that the Somali government would send a delegation to Algeria to support the team. He praised the collaboration between the SFF and the Ministry for Youth and Sports and encouraged its continued development.

As per FIFA regulations, Somali U-17 football squad members underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) diagnostics tests this week to determine their eligibility. The tests were conducted in Ethiopia, where the team arrived last Thursday evening for their pre-tournament training camp. The squad will undergo a subsequent MRI test upon arrival in Algeria. The outcome of these tests will establish the final roster set to represent Somalia in the continental event.

The Confederation of African Football (CAF) Executive Committee approved a recommendation by the CAF Youth Organizing Committee and CAF Medical Organizing Committee to amend Article 27 of the TotalEnergies U17 Africa Cup of Nations Regulations. This amendment outlines a series of compulsory eligibility tests, including MRI scans, to be performed for all participating teams before the start of the matches.

FIFA first introduced MRI scans at the 2009 Under-17 World Cup in Nigeria. They focus on players' wrists to calculate their ages accurately. This technology has been utilized to address the issue of teams fielding over-aged players in age-group competitions in Africa. Poor record-keeping and inadequate systems have led to inaccuracies or unavailability of birth certificates across the continent.

Chad, Djibouti, and Sudan were disqualified from regional qualifiers for the Under-17 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers last year after wrist scans showed some of their players were over the age limit. The Council for East and Central Africa Football Associations (CECAFA) MRI tests to scan players' wrists to accurately ascertain their true age before qualifiers began in Ethiopia.

Somalia's groundbreaking appearance in the AFCON U-17 Tournament will begin on April 29, when they challenge host nation Algeria at Nelson Mandela Stadium in Algiers. Representing the CECAFA region, Somalia and South Sudan will compete in the upcoming tournament. 

Somalia is slated to face Algeria, Senegal, and Congo Brazzaville in a tough Group A. Head coach Nur Mohamed Amin and his players have spent several weeks preparing for the competition, undergoing rigorous training sessions in Mogadishu and Addis Ababa. Coach Nur believes his player's commitment to representing Somalia at the highest level of youth football will undoubtedly inspire young athletes nationwide.

"I am confident that we have the players who can perform well at an elite level. We want to show that winning the Zonal tournament was not by mistake," Nur said last Thursday afternoon before the team departed Mogadishu.

The Africa U-17 Cup of Nations serves as a qualifier for the FIFA U-17 World Cup, which was supposed to be held in Peru later in the year, but the Peruvian Football Federation withdrew its hosting rights earlier this month.

The tournament will still take place from November 10 to December 2, 2023, but a new host will be chosen soon by the FIFA Council.

The top four teams from the Africa Cup of Nations will secure their spots in the prestigious global tournament, presenting a fantastic opportunity for Somalia's U-17 squad to showcase their talent on the world stage.

As Somalia's U-17 football team prepares for their groundbreaking appearance at the TOTAL Energies Africa U-17 Cup of Nations, the nation eagerly anticipates its performance. Their participation in the tournament is a testament to the hard work and dedication of the country's players, coaches, and the football community.

Awil Ismail Mohamed, the Somali Football Federation (SFF) technical director, said the core team has been training together consistently since the start of the year.

The team's journey to Algeria is a shining example of the promising future for Somali football. With the continued support of the Somali government, corporate sponsors, and the unwavering dedication of the players, the Somali U-17 squad is set to make history in the upcoming tournament. Somalia stands united in support of these young athletes as they embark on their quest for glory in Algeria.


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