Nairobi News

GeneralHustleMust ReadNewsSportsWhat's Hot

How Somalia is using football to battle Al-Shabaab

By Xinhua July 27th, 2023 2 min read

Dust blown by the scorching wind swirled over Adado football stadium on the outskirts of Adado town in Galmudug state, Somalia, on a recent afternoon.

The stadium was full of spectators chanting and waving their teams’ jerseys. As the teams emerged from the dressing room, the frenzied crowd surged forward.

Football might be a recreational event for many the world over, but in Adado, it plays a bigger role – that of deradicalising the youth. It also promotes harmonious existence among communities.

More than 10 teams gathered from across the 10 districts making up Galmudug for a tournament to represent the state at the national level.

The theme in this championship remains the role of young people in rebuilding their country by not joining the armed group, al-Shabaab. Playing football has been criminalised by al-Shabaab in the areas it controls.

Also read: Inside the Al Shabab training camps in Somali – 6 escapees

Football has become the new solution to push back against radicalisation in Galmudug state.

On the sidelines of the football pitch, women in elegant attire and playing traditional drums punctuated with songs, hailed the importance of peaceful co-existence among clans alongside efforts to root out militancy.

Galmudug Sports chairman Hassan Shire Ahmed, alias Kaniif, said football has played an important role in deradicalisation of youth.

“Since we started engaging the youth in football, very few have joined al-Shabaab. No single youth has been reported to have joined the group in the last three years,” he said.

Shire added that football clubs in central Somalia have also become new income streams.

“Playing football is now professional for a large number of our young people. They are playing for regional and national clubs,” he said.

Also read: Revealed: Al Shabaab’s ‘recruitment’ fees

According to Shire, some young people have even become professional coaches and are training teams in several states. Adado District Education Officer, Hussein Ali Sahal, said football is playing a part in reconciling communities.

“Our biggest aim of starting clubs was to stop the youth buying into dangerous ideology by al-Shabaab and other militant groups,” Ali said.

“As we progressed, we found out that football was playing a part in reconciliation.”

Yahya Shantax, the manager of Golden Football Pitch, said the game has gained traction among the youth, thus shielding them from anti-social behaviour.

Cigaal Mohamud Nurre, a former coach of Adado district team, said there are seven clubs registered with the local ministry of sports.

Adado public stadium, built in the 1970s, was renovated by the Federal Republic of Somalia at a cost of $145,500 in 2019 to help fight radicalisation of young people in the central part of the country.

Also read: Inside the leaked intelligence report on Al Shabaab’s plan to attack Kenya