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What's in a soccer game? For Somalia, a milestone goal

Friday, December 18, 2015

Somalia broadcast the final of the General Da'ud Cup live for the first time – just one sign of the progress the country has been making as it recovers from civil war.

When the final whistle blew in Mogadishu’s Banadir Stadium on late Thursday afternoon, the winner of one of Somalia’s most popular soccer tournaments was neither of the two football clubs on the field.

It was the airwaves.

Thousands around the country tuned in to catch the final of the General Da’ud cup – the first time it has been broadcast live on television in its 43-year existence and a sign that the Horn of Africa nation is continuing its steady process toward recovery after more than two decades of war.

“It is a breakthrough,” Somali Football Federation  (SFF) president Abdiqani Said Arab said in a statement before the game. “We had long dreamed of getting our matches watched live — this is almost the realization of our age-old dreams."

The match, which saw the Somali military's Horseed beat their police rivals, highlights Somalia's hard-won military gains against Al Shabab rebels, who were pushed out of Mogadishu in 2011. The peace that has followed – the longest period of stability the capital has experienced since the country fell into a civil war in 1991 – has seen a national government move back into its headquarters, an American embassy reopen its doors in 2015, and a construction boom take off after war damaged 80 percent of the city's structures.

And despite continued Al Shabab attacks in the capital, masses of people feel secure enough to  frequent the nightclubs and restaurants where many gather to watch foreign-league soccer games on television.

But Thursday's broadcast holds special significance because it offers a glimpse of the advances Somalia is achieving during this period of stability – from the refurbishing of the stadiums and local leagues to the television station that broadcast the game.

“This will be a test,” said Mr. Arab. “But if we are successful in this endeavor, we will try to get our matches shown live in the months to come.”


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