SHAFI’I MOHYADDIN ABOKAR in Mogadishu/AIPS: Football has been used as a tool of peace building in Somalia for the past 22 years because of the due to lack of a functioning central government. The sport is currently playing a key role in the fight against piracy in the war-devastated country through the Fight Piracy football tournament.

Through the sub-regional football committee, the Somali Football Federation is hopeful that the tournament which started in the coastal town of Bosasso over the weekend will help many young men to refrain from piracy or having guns to take part in fighting in their areas.

The tournament bringing together boys representing 14 districts in the Bari region which is the largest region in Somalia is mainly intended to encourage young boys from piracy and help them refrain from the armed confrontations in their districts.

“Football can play a key role in the public integration and prevents young boys from taking up arms, drug abuse or falling into other kinds of crimes,” said the regional football committee chairman Mustafe Abdirahman Majacase at the opening of the tournament.

The opening match between Bosasso and Gumbax district boys ended in 2-1 in favor of Gumbax. Other participating districts are: Waaciye, Iskushuban, Ufeyn, Qandala, Carmo, Balidhidin, Baargaal, Caluula, Rako Raaxo, Degaanka Qaw, Degaanka Buruc and Galgala.

The SFF has praised its representatives in the region for the step taken for the right direction and encouraged other regional sub football committees affiliated to SFF to take such move which will help the root out piracy in Somali waters.

Secretary-General Abdi Qani Said Arab said in a press statement that the main objectives of holding this tournament include:

•      promotion of football in the region

•      use of football as a tool to persuade young boys against piracy and taking up arms

•      creation of friendship and integration among people living in different districts who had never known one another before

•      hunt future national U-17 and U-20 football teams.

“Since 2005 piracy off the lawless coasts of Somalia has been high on the agenda at all piracy-related conferences around the world and scores of warships were sent to Somalia to fight notorious buccaneers, but nothing has been achieved to stop them from attacking ships off Somali coast and in the Gulf of Aden until now, so I clearly say that the world has not yet understood the right thing that can eradicate pirates and that is football” the SFF secretary General said in his statement.

“As we learned from the past history, in Somalia football destroyed the green line that once divided the capital Mogadishu into two parts each controlled by a hostile warlord, the Football also helped the disarmament of thousands of former child soldiers who were used as fighters by all sides involved in the armed conflicts in the country, so with a real contribution from the outside world we are very hopeful that we can over come piracy through football” the secretary General emphasized in his press statement on Monday.

Currently former child soldiers and street boys who were rehabilitated under football for peace and football for hope programs are in the national under-20 football team.

The Bari region where the Fight Piracy tournament is taking place is part of the semiautonomous Somali state of Puntland where the Somali Football Federation held a regional football tournament for peace and friendship in December 2010.

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