Football Football

War-torn Somalia to screen first live match

Players from Heegan (blue shirt) compete against players from Gaaddidka (red shirt) during the first soccer match of the Somalia Premier League at the Banadir stadium in Mogadishu November 8, 2013. Image/Courtesy

MOGADISHU, December 17 – Somalia on Thursday screens its first ever live football match, sports officials said, as the Horn of Africa nation slowly recovers from decades of war.

The final of the General Da’ud cup, played in the capital Mogadishu’s Banadir Stadium on Thursday afternoon, will be broadcast live on Somali state television, SNTV, the national football federation said.

“It is a breakthrough, we had long dreamed of getting our matches watched live — this is almost the realisation of our age-old dreams,” Somali Football Federation president Abdiqani Said Arab said in a statement.

“This will be a test, but if we are successful in this endeavour, we will try to get our matches shown live in the months to come.”

The game will see army team Horseed take on police rivals Heegan FC.

Football is one of the most popular games both played and watched in Somalia, with European football screened in cafés.

Al-Qaeda’s East Africa branch, the Shebab, used carry out grenade attacks on those watching football, but such attacks have declined with the insurgents battling government troops backed by a 22,000-strong African Union force.