June 30 – Having waited since 2004, Somalia today sees the return to football in its national stadium – Stadium Mogadishu.
Mogadishu City Club and Horseed Sports Club – leading clubs in the Somali Premier League – are the opening match and will compete in the One-Day Cup that marks the re-launch of the ground.
The stadium has been returned to the Somali Football Federation (SFF) by the Somali government having been previously occupied by military forces. The game will be attended by the minister for youth and sport Hon. Khadija Mohamed Diriye and SFF president, Abdiqani Said Arab. Somalian president Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed will take the kick-off.
Not only will the opening see the return of Ocean Stars to playing their home games in the country but Abdiqani Said Arab said that new SFF headquarters will be built next to the facility with the financial assistance from FIFA.
Built in 1977, Stadium Mogadishu is in many ways a reflection of the unrest and chaos that has frequently engulfed Somalia. The stadium was closed in 1991 when civil war broke out and from 1993 to 1995, the stadium housed US troops and then Pakistani military who were part of the unsuccessful UN peace keeping mission in Somalia.
Reopened at the end of 1995, Stadium Mogadishu was closed again in 2004. From 2007-2009, the stadium was the main base for Ethiopian troops who entered the country to help the Somali government defeat the once powerful Islamic Courts Unions, but by the end of January 2009, the national facility came into the hands of AL Shabaab who were based at the stadium until they were forced to flee the capital on 6 August 2011.
The stadium stayed in military use, as African Union Peace keepers in Somalia (AMISOM) took over AL Shabaab vacated. Finally AMISOM left the stadium on 28 August 2018.
What was left was a stadium in desperate need of renovation. That project is now complete with football being played today in what will hopefully be more than the ominously named One-Day Cup.
Pictures courtesy of Mohamed Sheik Nor
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