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Somalia’s Puntland abuzz as maiden football league concluded

Football remains the most popular sport in Somalia, however, violence and insecurity prevented soccer leagues to expand across the country for years.

By Ahmed Yusuf

GAROWE –  Thousands of football fans turned cities in Somalia’s northern state of Puntland into a sea of colour as the hours ticked down to the wind up of the months-long maiden regional football league last week.

The 9-team competition, the first of its kind to be held in the region was held in Bossaso, Puntland’s commercial hub was parts of new football development programs carried out in all regional states in the country which saw each state held its own official football league.

As the referee blows a whistle to end the final match, thousands of cheering fans flooded the streets of the town chanting the name of the league’s champion team, Bari Football Club [BFC] which has been crowned as the winners of the league.

The conclusion of the maiden league is seen as a major breakthrough in Somalia’s struggle to reclaim its past football glory for the horn of Africa nation which is recovering from decades of conflict.

Somali Football Federation [SFF] president Abdiqani Said Arab speaks during a ceremony concluding the maiden league in Bossaso, Puntland’s commercial hub. Photo Courtesy/SFF
“The organization of such football league in the country’s states was part of the SFF’s efforts to spread the Football program which composes of a number of development projects across the country.” said Abdiqani Said Arabm  Somali Football Federation [SFF] president at the ceremony concluding the league in Bossaso.

In recent years, Somalia’s Football Federation (SFF) has undertaken several major football development projects, with major football stadiums refurbished which saw the federation held the first flood-lit match in the Somali capital on early September in over 30 years.

Mr. Arab also said that the concluded maiden league in Puntland was parts of a nationwide development programs intended to promote football in all States affiliated to the federal government of Somalia.

Held for the second consecutive year in the country’s regional states, the football league is one of few signs of recovery by the country’s football in Somalia which has struggled to progress amid violence and attacks in the country.

Football remains the most popular sport in Somalia, however, violence and insecurity prevented soccer leagues to expand across the country for years.

As stability returns to the long-chaotic country,  Somalia also continues to produce locally trained professional football referees, with the help of the world football governing body, FIFA, in an effort to rebuild the country’s sport sector.

Despite limited resources, Somalia’s football federation has also provided equipment to all clubs in the league and to get the official league on track, along with the assistance to regional football associations in covering their running costs.

” i am happy that everything has gone smoothly” the president said.” Mr. Arab said during his speech.

Meanwhile, Somali officials have lauded SFF’s efforts to rebuild the country’s football sector, crediting Mr. Arab’s significant contribution in helping reshape the country’s football sector hardly hit by the country’s long-running conflict.

“The organization of the league has written a new history, thanks to the Somali Football Federation president Abdiqani Said Arab and his committee members for the good start.” said Abdirahman Sheik Ahmed, the minister of youth and sport of the Puntland State.

(Editing by Judy Maina in Nairobi, Kenya)

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