BBC BLOGS - Piers Edwards
« Previous | Main | Next »

Somalia's search for a lucky break

Post categories:

Piers Edwards | 13:50 UK time, Wednesday, 9 November 2011

As you flick on your television to watch England take on Spain on Saturday, you may like to thank your lucky stars for being able to follow the game so easily.

It's second nature - a ritual almost without thought - as is playing football for most of the world's enthusiasts. But would you risk your life to carry out either pastime?

I only ask because they do in Somalia, which is why you might like to root for their embattled footballers on Saturday - especially if you have Britain's traditional fondness for the underdog.

Because there can be few teams with the odds more stacked against them than the collection of individuals who face a daily fight just to play the game - often having to disguise their intentions to do so.

Football is hugely popular in Somalia despite the numerous challenges affecting both the watching and playing of the game.

Saturday marks the beginning of Somalia's 2014 World Cup adventure, although just making it to the start line for their preliminary qualifier against Ethiopia is creditworthy enough.

The Somalis' 'home leg' will actually be played in Djibouti though because Somalia - widely described as a failed state and without an effective government in two decades - is considered too dangerous to host matches.

Living in the middle of a war zone is the first hurdle for Somalia's footballers. It was one which Under-20 starlet Abdi Salaan Mohamed Ali was unable to overcome in February, after he became the tragic victim of a suicide bomber after leaving training one day.

Then there's the mere challenge of just being able to play football at all.

For notwithstanding the country's drought, famine and political instability, the game is outlawed in many parts of Somalia by the militant Islamist group al-Shabab, which has links to al-Qaeda.

And despite the heavy involvement of many of the world's Muslim nations in national and international football, playing football in Somalia is fraught with danger.

"It was four years ago that they described football as unIslamic or Satanic," says Shafi'i Mohyaddin Abokar, the Somali Football Federation (SFF) press officer. "According to the Islamists, football is totally banned in Somalia - as it is something that steers the young people away from the path of Islam."

So much so that Somalia is a place where al-Shabab cannot even tolerate people watching the game on television.

Those Somalis wishing to play football, especially the ones who have to travel in from al-Shabab controlled areas, go to extraordinary lengths to play.

They regularly hide their football kits under Islamic dress as they cross checkpoints into the government-controlled areas, so that no militant will discover their real intention.

"That's the culture - because the young players want to train and play," says the SFF's secretary general, Abdi Qani. "Normally, every place in Mogadishu or Somalia is a risk but the objective of the young generation is to play or watch or support football - that is the aim."

Football in Somalia is exceptionally popular - some estimating that 85-90% of the population love the game.

And those who run Somali football display unbridled passion as they work tirelessly to ensure the game can continue, often at sizeable personal cost both in terms of time and money.

Qani has spent much of his recent time trying to raise cash from the Somali diaspora on sponsorship crusades in Europe.

Mogadishu has been decimated by the many years of fighting, which have made investment in sport a low priority for a government battling insurgency, drought and famine

Because without governmental support and a wholesale absence of sponsorship, the SFF survives on the annual US$250,000 (£157,000) grant that every national association receives from Fifa - but which many dismiss as chicken feed (Brazil's sponsorship deal is worth over US$100m).

Victory over Ethiopia would take Somalia into a financially-crippling qualifying group that would involve trips to South Africa, Botswana and Central African Republic. I asked Qani the faintly-absurd question of whether he actually wants to win the two-legged play-off.

"We're 100% committed to winning and if we do win, we're preparing to ask Fifa and the Confederation of African Football for special financial support for Somalia," he replied.

As athletes like former world 1500m champion Abdi Bile and Somali-born British athlete Mo Farah have proved, and footballers like Chelsea teenager Islam Feruz may do in future, there is real talent in Somalia.

There is also a devotion to sport that almost beggars belief.

Earlier this year, al-Shabab called the captain of the Somali women's basketball team to give her a choice - either stop playing basketball or be killed - with Islamists having issued an order back in 2006 which banned Somali women from playing sport.

"I will only die when my life runs out - no one can kill me but Allah," responded a defiant Suweys Ali Jama, who is currently preparing for December's Arab Games in Qatar. "I will never stop my profession while I am still alive."

Her words echoed those of fellow basketball players who received similar death threats when contesting a regional tournament in Kenya, with the team's male coach saying: "I am ready to die in Mogadishu for the reason that I have participated in this tournament."

And after the death of under-20 player Abdi Salaan Mohamed Ali earlier this year, the president of the Somali Football Federation reacted by saying: "we are committed to continuing our duty in the war-torn country until we meet death."

They are comments and attitudes which put England's clash with Spain into real perspective.

Error: Too many requests have been made during a short time period so you have been blocked.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Wooo new blog.

    An interesting read too.


    In before "Somalian football is far superior than English football"

  • Comment number 2.

    A very interesting read that also deeply saddens me. How can some people be so small minded that they think kicking a ball around is against God's will? For crying out loud, surely it is more likely that if there is a God he would be a bit more annoyed at the vast numbers of people murdered in Somalia on a daily basis rather than some peaceful people enjoying a game and entertaining others while causing no pain or misfortune whatsoever.

  • Comment number 3.

    God must be a bit of a strange fellow, it satanic to kick a ball about yet blowing up young sportspeople is okay......hmmm

  • Comment number 4.

    A very good blog!

    In fact it makes me feel a little 2 dimensional and a bit of an idiot that I haven't heard of this before! Makes you realise how good we have got it. These men and women should be the inspiration to all young aspiring sportsmen and women, Tevez and Co should take note from these unsung heroes. In fact the UK as a whole should take note.

    As for the al-Shabab view on it being anti-Muslim, well as much as I totally disagree with their view I can sort of see were there coming from, football is a great way to put and to spread our western beliefs and one of the traits you have with our way of life is a drastic fall in followers of any religion, which is why they have done what they have done, seem's a little desperate however, like a mad dictator clinging on to power. The first step has been taken by the players themselves to continue playing the beautiful game amongst others!

    I salute these men and women of somalia.

  • Comment number 5.

    #2
    Never underestimate the ability of some of the religiously inclined to be petty, vindictive and oppressive. For some God's 'love' has to be enforced and we all must pay for some 'sin' or other.

    I'd make transgressors watch an England game: that would be punishment enough.
    --------------------------------

    And Somalian football of course is so much better than the EPL. Superior ball control and technique!

  • Comment number 6.

    Top notch blog Piers, interesting topic and thought provoking.

    From personal experience, I know what it is like to have unofficial restrictions placed on who I play my sports with but this is an entirely different level. The choice of playing football with the risk of a death sentence attached, is totally unacceptable in a civilised society.

    Good to see that you mentioned Mo and a few other athletes in the blog because the examples set by these athletes can only help to change the situation that exists in Somalia. True, Somalia's problems will not change overnight but any attempt by athletes in any field is a step forward.

  • Comment number 7.

    Excellent blog. Highlights so many problems faced by sports men and women in Somalia and also across a lot of Islamic states.

    Not sure there's a need to link in Al-Qaeda, more of a pointless afterthought promoting a BBC agenda than any sporting value. That said I don't agree with the statement that football leads people away from the path of Islam...

    I hope they win the play off and get some more headlines. It would also put FIFA in the spot light a little bit more and hopefully do more to raise awareness of the difficulties faced by FA's who don't have the sponsorships backing them up.

  • Comment number 8.

    @crazy monkey mayhem

    Don't have a go at the BBC for connecting Al-Shabaab to Al-Qaeda. They are a terrorist organisation that has taken control of the Southern part of Somalia through force. They fight the transitional government by using suicide bombings and assassinations. They have orchestrated the biggest attack on an AU mandated peacekeeping force killing 11 Burundians. They also orchestrate attacks in foreign states, including Uganda and Kenya. They are a terrorist organisation, they have been on the US list of terrorist organisations since 2008. However the most striking piece of evidence is their own claim to be "sunni cousins" to Al-Qaeda. This is hardly a BBC agenda.

    Good article, enjoyed it a lot. Though it would be interesting to see how much football is played in the other two non al-Shabaab regions in Somalia.

  • Comment number 9.

    very interesting, shocking and positive. It's a shame that the associations to whom 100 grand is peanuts don't just give it back so it can go straight to associations that need it like these guys.

    Very brave, and it's shocking that this situation is allowed to continue. I wonder if it would be different if they had oil

  • Comment number 10.

    The verse from the Qur'an which these Al-Shabaab goons are following, is that "intoxicants and games of chance" are ''abominations''.

    Presumably it would be acceptable for Manchester United to play a game there, if it was officiated by Webb or Clattenburg, as then it would no longer be a ''game of chance'', but a ''game with a pre-determined outcome in Manchester United's favour.''

    The prohibition of intoxicants means that it's very unlikely that there are any Somali pub players. Although, I still reckon they'd probably beat England by at least 2 clear goals.

    It is sad for the poor people of Somalia that the rest of the world neglects the terrible plight that their country is in. If I was a Somali, then I would start furiously digging for oil, then, if they did strike ''black gold'' - before you know it - the British and Americans will swiftly invade, er, I mean, ''liberate'' their country, and install a puppet regime that was equally as bad as the last one.

  • Comment number 11.

    Fantastic blog! This should be compulsory reading for the English National Team. Forget your £150k weekly wage, let's ask John Terry or Wayne Rooney how many chcek points they would sneak through to get to training every day.

  • Comment number 12.

    Oh patches, you're well jel, suffering with Unitedaphobia. Keep this stuff off this blog, dear chap.

  • Comment number 13.

    Aware it's only a small section of the article but interesting to read about Islam Feruz. I didn't know he had signed for Chelsea and still thought he was a Celtic player, so this article has really been an interesting read on many levels.

    The reason I mention him is that during this summer, in the newly built pitch in Glasgow's Kelvingrove Park, some of my friends and I played against Feruz and a number of his mates, on two or three occasions.

    The guys would just turn up around 4/5pm in the afternoon looking for a match. We knew he played for Celtic and I believe another lad played for Rangers but they were all so talented/quick/fit and simply incredible to play against. Feruz and co. were all also a joy to play alongside due to their good nature and it is refreshing these days to hear of a professional footballer coming across in a positive light, despite the countless stories in the press recently whether it be Tevez, Terry or Balotelli.

    A massive talent for the future and I hope to see him playing in the Premiership soon.

  • Comment number 14.

    12. At 13:47 10th Nov 2011, GenesisRed wrote:

    Oh patches, you're well jel, suffering with Unitedaphobia. Keep this stuff off this blog, dear chap.
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------

    What ''stuff''?

    I was raising valid concerns as to why the ''international community'' has left Somalia in the lurch for around 20 years, while muscling into any other country who have natural resources to plunder.

    The point that I was putting across, albeit sardonically, was that if Somalia had large reserves of oil, then this topic wouldn't have existed in the first place, because the ''West'' would have been over there to ''liberate'' the country, quicker than you can say ''Jack Robinson''.

  • Comment number 15.

    Patch, quite possibly the reason that Western forces aren't in Somalia now is because they 'were' there, and the people there practically lynched them for trying to help. More trouble than it's worth, particularly when Afghanistan should be a bigger priority for the West nowadays.

  • Comment number 16.

    I'm amazed nobody has mentioned the quote from Shankly as yet:

    "Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that"

  • Comment number 17.

    Excellent blog Piers Edwards as a Somali the situation in Somalia is very upsetting but I believe football can be the tool that can help bring peace , not only to Somalia but to other dangerous countries , football has the power to unite people together.

    I agree there is there is "real talent in Somalia" . Your fact about "Football in Somalia is exceptionally popular" is certainly true and I believe that Somalia can produce a good team with world class players If they had the facilities , infrastructure , organisation and management. But the reality is the future of Somali Football does't look bright due to Civil War and corruption.

    It would be interesting to see how much football is played in regions like Somaliland which relatively peaceful and self-declared democratic country. The Somali FA should leave Mogadishu and operate in Hargeisa Somaliland's capital. I am convinced this will bring some credibility to the Somali FA and this proposed move I am suggesting will enable Somalia National Team to play competitive match at home.

    As for the game against Ethiopia I am praying for a win , Somalia v Ethiopia game is like " International Derby" for example "England v Scotland" and as u kno anything can happen in a derby match.

    and finally Piers would you agree that If Somalia qualified for the FIFA World Cup it would the greatest achievement in in the history of sports.

  • Comment number 18.

    If they do happen to get through I think it would be utterly disgusting if they were not supported by Fifa!

  • Comment number 19.

    Piers what a blog mate. Myself I am from Somalia completely agree with you Arsenal_Gooner92. It will be an amazing achievement if Somalia qualifies for World Cup.
    I think sport can unite the nation that has been torn apart for 20 years almost.

    My views on shabaab is that they shouldn't take things into context. They should try and promote the basic humanitarian needs of the society.

    I would like to compare the match against Ethiopia like England vs France or Holland vs Germany or brazil vs argentina.

    Love the blog. Next one should be for Al Sadd Qatar reaching the Asian Champions league final.

  • Comment number 20.

    15. At 14:05 10th Nov 2011, MGUK82 wrote:

    Patch, quite possibly the reason that Western forces aren't in Somalia now is because they 'were' there, and the people there practically lynched them for trying to help. More trouble than it's worth, particularly when Afghanistan should be a bigger priority for the West nowadays.
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------

    That was a very small-scale operation. The US-led force only had about 700 people in it.

    It wouldn't take too much time to restore widespread order in Somalia, if it was an efficiently ordered international coalition involved.

    Afghanistan? Sadly I think Iran is looming large on the horizon for the ''West''.

  • Comment number 21.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 22.

    What a fresh and different blog, thoroughly enjoyable and different. Its a nice break form the norm 'United are great' 'City look good' 'Liverpool are awful' type stuff..... that usually sparks mass debate over nothing.

    some very insightful comments too, i for one hope Somalia make it.

  • Comment number 23.

    Not sure there's a need to link in Al-Qaeda, more of a pointless afterthought promoting a BBC agenda than any sporting value. That said I don't agree with the statement that football leads people away from the path of Islam...

  • Comment number 24.

    If only there was a military force organised by a united group of powerful countries around the world for this kind of operation...

    Much like China, people fighting for the smallest freedoms that we don't even question. This shouldn't still exist, but the US isn't interested in truely altruistic warmongering, only when you threaten to steal their bread (or oil, in most cases).

  • Comment number 25.

    I'm not religious, I'm not an atheist, I'm just not religious, but I am a football fan.

    Football is a beautiful game which unites people around the world like nothing else, even religion, it is a way for young people to express themselves, socialise and be a part of something that brings joy and keeps people fit, and as such no one should be barred from taking part regardless.

    However, this quote from the blog is a particularly poignant one:

    "[Football] is something that steers the young people away from the path of Islam"

    When you look at our game over here, where teams like Man City pay at least 11 players over £100,000 a week and we have the whole 'WAG' lifestyle, fast cars, drunk and disorderly, occasionally drug-related mischief, adultery and the press' relationship with football, you can imagine why someone religious may see that as a corruption of youth. Are our nation's footballers shining beacons of model behaviour for Muslims or any moral collective? Not always, not at all.

    So if al-Sharab don't wish for young Muslims to end up like that, maybe it's our own game that creates this negative view of football to people around the world, and so maybe it is actually us who are responsible for the problems for football in Somalia.

    I don't think you can necessarily blame the Somali authorities for having this view on football (but you could certainly question their authority!), but regardless it is a crying shame kids anywhere do not have access to the purest sport in the world, even if the organised game has issues, from FIFA to agents, to players, to fans.

    What should certainly never happen, is "under-20 starlet"s being harm, even killed as a result of participating in the world's favourite sport.

  • Comment number 26.

    I don't want turn this blog into a political one. To me Sports and politics go together and we have seen that through the Poppy Debate or lobby.

    Can someone explain to me why players are fined for taking their shirts off and expressing their freedom of expression while FIFA is being double standard on allowing political statement on shirts or coz its England again.

    Kanoute was fined for having a political statement on t shirt. FIFA is a joke.

  • Comment number 27.

    where teams like Man City pay at least 11 players over £100,000

    wasn't aware you kept the books at City?

    unecessary dig and finger pointing when, a closer look to home has numerous players on a similar wage and creating headlines for the exact reason you mention Somalia may have this stance......

  • Comment number 28.

    unnecessarily sensitive, signori - its just a case that FIFA, that make millions from each World Cup, only give a footballers weekly wage to poor associations to last them a year.

    it's a joke. Just like financing and business around the world then really.

  • Comment number 29.

    26. At 15:04 10th Nov 2011, Alidutch wrote:
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The poppy will be worn on a black armband. It's a loophole in the regulations which prohibit political slogans on shirts.

    Despite the emotion-driven hysteria from the English, FIFA were absolutely correct to not allow the poppy on the shirt. The rules are quite clear on the matter, and England should not have any special privilege in regards to that.

    As for taking the shirt off? I believe that's because football is a worldwide game, and in some cultures (especially the Middle East and South Asia) it's not culturally acceptable for a man to bare his chest in public.

  • Comment number 30.

    Can someone explain to me why players are fined for taking their shirts off and expressing their freedom of expression while FIFA is being double standard on allowing political statement on shirts or coz its England again.

    --------------------------------------------------------------

    I've got no strong feelings over wearing poppies on shirts, if England weren't allowed then there's lots of other things they could have done to show respect.

    Just inform me though, how exactly is wearing a poppy 'political'?

  • Comment number 31.

    30. At 15:14 10th Nov 2011, We all follow United wrote:

    Just inform me though, how exactly is wearing a poppy 'political'?
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    It's all in the eye of the beholder.

    Wearing a poppy to commemorate fallen servicemen and women may seem harmless enough to most people, but it can be interpreted by others as a ''glorification of war'' (not that I agree with that). If England were playing in Argentina or Northern Ireland with the poppy on their shirt, then it may well turn into a full-blown political incident.

  • Comment number 32.

    GenesisRed

    yeah i think i took it to heart maybe a little bit.........

    as for the poppy stance, im sure if all the efforts that are being used to have it on the shirt were used in a better way then the charity would be in a better place than it is now....

  • Comment number 33.

    while FIFA is being double standard on allowing political statement on shirts or coz its England again.

    ----------------------

    Paranoia? FIFA wanted to accomodate but they were right there should be no political messages on football shirts. Would it be any less or more political if Argentina wanted to show respect for the dead of the Malvina's, or the Irish Republic showed solidarity for the Republican dead wearing the 'Easter Lily'.

  • Comment number 34.

    NaniAndersonFabioRafaelFuture
    @25

    Agree with most of what you write.

    Yes there is a case of understanding why these religous fanatics see football being against the principal of Islam. That is until you realise that the one thing they are attempting to remove from the population is freedom of will.

    Many of us may not like the lifestyle choices of the k200 per week footballer in this country but it is their choice. It is also sad to note that many in Britain seem to be only concerned with the recklessness of a minority who make the headlines for what we see as the wrong reason.

    Given the choice, something that these fanatics want to remove, I would always opt for freedom no matter what problems it may cause in certain behaviour by a minority of individuals.

  • Comment number 35.

    and then we have Carlos Tevez who can't be bothered to turn up to training for 200k a week....

  • Comment number 36.

    What a nice blog! Nice to see something like this out of the EPL for the sport is international and the feeling, the love, the committment for football is global. You don believe if I tell you the roads of cities in Ethiopia are almost empty when one of the big four of the EPL play!

    Bravo Somalia.....good to see you coming on the international arena. Ethiopia is not so much better( concerninig football) and you can have the confidence facing us! We want to be at the group stage.... you want it too. But it is more important game for us than you so you got to take care!

  • Comment number 37.

    I think the excitement about the poppy thing is very daft. First off, we've never done it before, so why the big deal now?

    And the poppy isn't remotely political, religious or anything else.

    People might say it glorifies war, but how you can base that on a moment where the country comes together to remember those who have DIED in war, is beyond me.

    I can imagine that other countries might start to get other things allowed, and its a slippery slope, so on that basis its good that the door is firmly closed to it. But the justification was rubbish...

  • Comment number 38.

    30.At 15:14 10th Nov 2011, We all follow United wrote:
    Can someone explain to me why players are fined for taking their shirts off


    The players get fined/carded etc for simple reason.....when a player scores, this is the chance for the TV cameras to get a close in on the players shirt - at the time when most viewers look at the tv when a goal goes in! i.e the sponsor is in full view, maximising advertising for that moment - when they take their shirt off they probobly view it as a missed advertising opportunity. Makes sense thou with all the money the sponsor puts in........

  • Comment number 39.

    "People might say it glorifies war, but how you can base that on a moment where the country comes together to remember those who have DIED in war, is beyond me."


    Thats the problem though, a few years ago they started publicising it as supporting out troops in conflict now, not just the dead.

    Personally I wear a poppy to remember the dead from the two world wars, thats what I was always taught it was for (rightly or wrongly) not to support anyone who is fighting at the moment, or stubbed their toe on something but once worked in the typing department for the army.

  • Comment number 40.

    37. At 16:10 10th Nov 2011, GenesisRed wrote:

    People might say it glorifies war, but how you can base that on a moment where the country comes together to remember those who have DIED in war, is beyond me.
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------

    The footballing world, and the world at large, doesn't revolve around England.

    No, it's not offensive or divisive if you're in England, but other countries aren't necessarily going to interpret it that way.

    Ask yourself why it's only England, Wales and Scotland wearing one, out of the four constituent parts of the UK, and then you'll see why it's classed as a political slogan.

    In the end, it shouldn't really matter against Spain, unless they think it's a dig about the Armada (which was a fluky English win, I may add.)

  • Comment number 41.

    The England shirt and the poppy, can it offend other nations? It has certainly raised the issue of the tolerance we expect from other countries .

    Some nations can be more or less tolerant but we failed the test of tolerance when we were put to the test.

    Early eighties, Osvaldo Ardiles was forced to leave this country at the time because of the Falklands war. Did we have any understanding, did we know Ardiles views on a military junta that was evil, did we know his views at the time on the Falklands. No, the feeling was he that he could not stay, even though he was here to play football not wage a war. Certainly there was no tolerance or any form of perception shown at the time and all because he was from the Argentine.

    Myself I believe the poppy to be correct for remembering the fallen in conflict and can be shown on a football shirt but to say that the people of other nations may not be offended is ridiculous because it is human nature.

  • Comment number 42.

    "No, it's not offensive or divisive if you're in England, but other countries aren't necessarily going to interpret it that way."

    I don't really care what other countries decide to interpret. The fact remains it isn't political, even if people now try to hijack it for the sake of supporting current wars. They don't put a wreath on the monument to ongoing wars.

    People will decide to interpret things just how they want. Case in point, the subject of this blog - al-Shabab - who have decided that sport is outlawed by the Koran. Which is just another in a long line of religious (and other) nuts taking a single line out of context to support their point, like the American right to arms.

  • Comment number 43.

    It's amazing to think how important football can be to people. I don't think I'd be risking my life to play or watch a game but I can't begin to imagine living in such a society.

    Poppy and politics - it's not party politics but I can completely see why they were reluctant to allow it going ahead. Quite surprised they were allowed to get around it through the armbands.

  • Comment number 44.

    42. At 16:21 10th Nov 2011, GenesisRed wrote:

    I don't really care what other countries decide to interpret.
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Thank you for proving my point about the arrogant English attitude.

    You mightn't care what other countries think, but FIFA certainly do. Once again, the world doesn't revolve around English. No special treatment or no special privileges just because you're ''blighty''.

  • Comment number 45.

    44: Nothing like a good stereotype eh?

  • Comment number 46.

    45. At 16:29 10th Nov 2011, Thrashball wrote:

    44: Nothing like a good stereotype eh?
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    What do you expect? I've explained why FIFA correctly interprets it as a political slogan, and the first English response I get is ''I don't care how other countries interpret it''.

    England is just another country, and it's the height of arrogance to expect FIFA to bend the rules over a potentially divisive political slogan. In the end, they found a loophole, but FIFA need to close that pretty soon.

  • Comment number 47.

    With all this hoo-har over poppies this week, it would be nice if the players bothered to learn the words to the national anthem......and sing it too this week

  • Comment number 48.

    I don't really care what other countries decide to interpret. The fact remains it isn't political, even if people now try to hijack it for the sake of supporting current wars. They don't put a wreath on the monument to ongoing wars.
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Not sure you have understood this at all. It commemorates the dead of the British Army in various political conflicts at home and around the globe. I'm not sure the British Army are worshipped in Irealnd. Should Ireland commemorate the dead of the Drogeda, the famine and Bloody Sunday on their football tops? Perhaps a country should mourn the 'martydom' of the 9/11 bombers with a twin towers motif?I have no problem with countries commemorating their dead but I do have a problem with people naively assuming that conflict and war are somehow apolitical acts, and that we all share the fake outrage of the Daily Mail towards FIFA.

  • Comment number 49.

    Could you please email this to Carlos Tevez? I think he needs a wake up call.

  • Comment number 50.

    46: I'd expect a rational person to take it as one persons opinion and not to use that as an excuse to then depict an entire nation as represented by that person. He obviously doesn't think it's a political act (I disagree) and hence holds that view.

  • Comment number 51.

    "It commemorates the dead of the British Army "

    It about remembering of people who have died in conflict, regardless of nationality I have always thought, not just the British forces.

  • Comment number 52.

    couldnt care less!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 53.

    #51
    So it doesn't have a shared interpretation that we all can agree on then!

  • Comment number 54.

    Nice read Piers! makes a change from the usual rubbish we have had to contend with when it comes to writing about football.

    Nice to see neither united's name, nor that of beckham or rooney has been mentioned

    and finally:

    Hi Soul Patch, nice to see you again and happy to read you are keeping the rest on their toes as usual.

  • Comment number 55.

    Nice to see neither united's name, nor that of beckham or rooney has been mentioned

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Apart from by you of course. Never a blog goes past without you mentioning United, it's players or it's managers.

    Loved, hated but never ignored.

  • Comment number 56.

    It about remembering of people who have died in conflict, regardless of nationality I have always thought, not just the British forces.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------

    That's what I always thought but I know others that think differently and I guess if it offends even one person round the world then FIFA would have to ban it. As i've said before, there are plenty of other things England could have done anyway even before the armbands were agreed.

  • Comment number 57.

    "Not sure you have understood this at all. It commemorates the dead of the British Army in various political conflicts at home and around the globe. I'm not sure the British Army are worshipped in Irealnd. Should Ireland commemorate the dead of the Drogeda, the famine and Bloody Sunday on their football tops? Perhaps a country should mourn the 'martydom' of the 9/11 bombers with a twin towers motif?I have no problem with countries commemorating their dead but I do have a problem with people naively assuming that conflict and war are somehow apolitical acts, and that we all share the fake outrage of the Daily Mail towards FIFA."

    Obviously marking "bloody sunday" would qualify as political. The fact remains that the poppy was historically to commemorate those who died in the two world wars. Simple as that.

    If other people want to mark a non-political or non-religious day then why not? As I said, I agree that it shouldn't have been on the shirts - it never has been before so why now, but the reason for it (which initially was that we didn't want to offend the Germans) is rubbish.

    That we mark the day at all is just as "offensive" as a poppy on a football shirt.

  • Comment number 58.

    The Somali league is way better than the English league.

  • Comment number 59.

    Ask yourself why it's only England, Wales and Scotland wearing one,

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-15637074

    You might want to read this.

  • Comment number 60.

    as for " poppys "

    they look good growing en masse amoung the cornfields and other wild areas, that is those that managed to escape mass destruction from pesticides etc.

  • Comment number 61.

    59. At 17:05 10th Nov 2011, We all follow United wrote:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-15637074

    You might want to read this.
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    I was talking about the football teams. Although Northern Ireland aren't playing in this round of matches, they would not wear the poppy on their shirt due to the sensitivity surrounding anything which may commemorate the British army in that province.

  • Comment number 62.

    54. At 16:55 10th Nov 2011, HAHA CharadeYouAre wrote:

    Hi Soul Patch, nice to see you again and happy to read you are keeping the rest on their toes as usual.
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------

    Good afternoon, Charade.

    As you say, it's interesting to have a blog which doesn't cover the usual ground which we go over every week. ;)

  • Comment number 63.

    @62

    :)

    very refreshing.

  • Comment number 64.

    @55

    behave yourself

    before i have your phone tapped and put under surveillance

    :)

  • Comment number 65.

    Obviously marking "bloody sunday" would qualify as political. The fact remains that the poppy was historically to commemorate those who died in the two world wars. Simple as that.
    ----------------

    Was 'historically'! But if you read #51 there is a different interpretation.

    Nothing 'factual' or 'simple', shared or universal about it at all.

  • Comment number 66.

    Rob04

    Rememberance day is also called poppy day, the Commonwealth countries observe it. The US have veterans day, the Germans and Italians have their days but not the 11th, the French have Armistice day. Israel, Poland, Hong Kong and India, the list is worldwide. Thankfully the Germans introduced theirs post WW11.

    The one thing that the various remembrance days observe, is the fallen, in all conflicts since WW1.

    Is it a political message. It sends NO message, it simply asks us to remember the sad loss of life.

    Your right regarding 'bloody Sunday' being political, strangely but happily in recent years both Unionists and many Republicans have attended Rememberance Day services.

  • Comment number 67.

    66. At 18:47 10th Nov 2011, Londoner in exile returns wrote:
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------

    If you only mark your own country's dead, that is a political statement. It's saying ''my country, right or wrong.''

    If you're remembering every country's fallen since WWI, then you are commemorating Waffen SS soldiers who died in action as well.

    This kind of stuff should be kept out of football, and left for people to do on their own personal terms.

  • Comment number 68.

    While I think the professional game has taken commercialism to extremes as has the fanaticism of some fans to the point of losing their ability to think straight, football is also an outlet that allows men to express themselves and forget about the hardship of life for a moment. For Somalians I can't think of something more needed.

    As for Al Shabab, they are taking things to extremes as the Taliban did to address extreme issues in the country. Just as drug dealing was clamped down on in Afghanistan, piracy was clamped down on by Al Shabab and they also fought against the warlords that killed the Americans in the "Black Hawk Down" incident.

    I feel certain that when stability had arrived the severity of the regimes would have been reduced.

    As always its politicised murderers like Al Qaeda with an expansionist agenda that mess everyone up.

    As for the red poppy, this is simply to remember the sacrifices of British servicemen and women and FIFA were being over-the-top. Its not a political statement.

  • Comment number 69.

    #66 Maybe if the Germans had remembrance day before world war two, it might never have happened. Maybe the population would have been less inclined to favour war, so that Hitler got less of the vote than he did.

  • Comment number 70.

    Soul patch
    @67

    If you only mark your own country's dead, that is a political statement. It's saying ''my country, right or wrong.''

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    How is respecting the death of people who fought in a conflict, making a political statement? 'My country, right or wrong' it is plainly obvious that you know little on this subject.

    Please tell me where I can find one memorial where the term right and wrong are mentioned.

    Of course one of the nearest to the UK, is at Arromanche, there is a pillar revealing the number of allied troops who fell in WW11 alongside the number of german troops, There is no political message just a sad fact that so many lives were lost.

    The 'tomb of the unknown soldier' the very reason it is an unknown soldier is because their was is no difference in who it was.

    As I stated earlier the German people have their own day and so they should, if I was in Germany on the first Sunday in November I too would respect their dead.

    You really have no idea about the day of rememberance, It is not a football match, rememberance does not have winners or losers.

  • Comment number 71.

    United Dreamer
    @60


    Ah history! Hindsight is a marvelous thing, the fact is Hitler never had a majority vote, scaremongering and muscle count for more in those situations. Fear does the rest.

  • Comment number 72.

    #66
    I don't object to anyone remembering their dead and I respect it because one of my grandfathers served in the two WW. Survived the first but not the second ironically. But I also understand it as a political event that won't be shared by people outwith this country. On a national stage fine. On an international stage in a football match I'm not so comfortable with it and in my view the thin end of a wedge, which this government and FA should not have tried to exploit in the way that they have done.

  • Comment number 73.

    Rob04
    @ 72

    First of all, a Day of Rememberance is observed by more countries than the minority who do not observe it, it has zero to do with politics, it does not matter what anyones political alliance is. Rememberance is about remembering the dead.

    Secondly, people are talking about an international match, that means a team representing one country plays another. That is not political either, although I am certain there would be a joker who thinks it is. A nation like England has certain characteristics and in this case 'remembering the dead' in past conflicts is one of them. But so does:
    Germany
    Poland
    France
    Holland
    Honk Kong
    USA
    Canada
    New Zealand
    Australia
    India
    Malta
    Italy
    South Africa

    The list goes on and on, it is the characteristic of our nation and in fact most nations.

    To prove the point, many of us in the UK see the current conflicts as being politically wrong, many see them as being politically correct. The truth is the one thing that is common to all is that we honour the fallen no matter what the political motives where that led to their demise. Try visiting a war grave to pay your respects and having a political thought at the same time, it is impossible. My feelings and every person that I have met have always said the same, what a terrible waste of life, there is nothing poitical in that.

    Now if people want to now make poppy day, part of politics, then I challenge those people to state which political theories it represents and also tell those that it does not represent.

    The poppy is not the only symbol of rememberance , for example France have the 'le bleuet' [a flower] as well as the poppy.

  • Comment number 74.

    Great blog, Piers! Really important to raise awareness of these sorts of things, and it puts our football into perspective. Can't understand why these people think it's against God's will to play a harmless game of footy, but okay to kill thousands of innocents!!

    On the poppy debate, the fact is it isn't a political message. It is just a Mark of respect and remembrance for ALL who have lost their lives in conflict. Numerous countries have similar ceremonies and traditions - not just the UK or even the commonwealth. Yes it may be interpreted as political, but there are certain people in Somalia who think it's okay to be murdering young footballers because of their interpretations.

  • Comment number 75.

    Piers, great blog.

    "We're 100% committed to winning and if we do win, we're preparing to ask Fifa and the Confederation of African Football for special financial support for Somalia"- SFF's secretary general, Abdi Qani

    Win all lose, Somalia will take part in the 2011 CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup (25 November - 10 December) http://malawi.worldcupblog.org/team-news/2011-cecafa-senior-challenge-cup.html


    The Sponsors (Serengeti Breweries Limited) of the 2011 Challenge Cup released Sh823m for the tournament. SBL managing director, Richard Wells said the money will cover the costs of air tickets for all delegates, CECAFA officials and referees, accommodation, transport, logistics, prize money, CECAFA fees, security, hire of stadium and training grounds, media accreditation and other administrative requirements.

  • Comment number 76.

    Cheers piers.

  • Comment number 77.

    @66.

    Thats nonsense. Im a history major, so I know a little bit about this, but believe me a remembrance day wouldve done nothing in stopping hitler.

    @71

    Hitler did get a majority. Dont think that hitler forced his way into power, he did a lot for the german nation, and if it werent for his racial agenda, he would be regarded as one of the greatest leaders of the modern era. Im not saying that he's a great man, i condemn him, but dont change facts, just cause he was a racist. (despicable human being though)

  • Comment number 78.

    Good blog. How sad that playing or watching football is considered 'un-Islamic' by a group of religious bigots who would be better off in their own world than everybody else's. Of course they're not the first to foist their parochial views on others hence the reason we remember those who fought for us against similar evils today.

  • Comment number 79.

    Reading this blog only goes to show exactly what Celtic and Tommy Burns especially saved Islam Feruz from going back to. Which makes it even more disgusting how he let his head be turned by agents wanting to make money from him.

    If TB hadn't pled his case on his appeal from deportation to the Home Office, he'd be back there having to do exactly the same as these guys in the blog.

  • Comment number 80.

    It is sad for the poor people of Somalia that the rest of the world neglects the terrible plight that their country is in. If I was a Somali, then I would start furiously digging for oil, then, if they did strike ''black gold'' - before you know it - the British and Americans will swiftly invade, er, I mean, ''liberate'' their country, and install a puppet regime that was equally as bad as the last one.

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    ok then lets do nothing, would that make you happier. Oh wait the UN could go in and help.....bleeding heart

  • Comment number 81.

    #73
    No one doubts the universal nature of rememberance. Its not the issue.

    The issue is why a British Prime Minister and a trying-to-be-useful-for-something-member of the Royal Family play politics with the memories of dead soldiers as part of a football match, allowing the media to engage in yet another round of FIFA bashing. FIFA were correct. Wars/ conflict and rememberence are all political events and to trade it on the international stage is shoddy. You are not seriously suggesting that their political advisors diagnosed this request to FIFA as 'politically-neutral' and were unaware of how this might play out.

    The political doctrine you are looking for is called Nationalism, or British Nationalism. I defy anyone to visit war memorials and NOT have a political thought, even if its only about sadness and the futility of war. This week in the media we traded our collective grief for a bit of FIFA bashing.

    Shameful

  • Comment number 82.

    If you only mark your own country's dead, that is a political statement. It's saying ''my country, right or wrong.''
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    ok, the poppy symbol was actually developed out a Canadians poem "In Flanders Fields" (yes i know historically it has always been linked with the dead) But it was out of this that came the symbolism of the Poppy to honour the fallen. In nowhere in the poem does it mention colour creed or nationality. So please get your facts right. I understand interpretaion is half of the problem, but its not just a Bristish thing.
    I do agree that this is all a farce, where were they last year, or the year before (Brazil friendly I think)? I agree there may be political motivation for pushing the issue, but there is certainly no politics in the wearing of the poppy.

  • Comment number 83.

    "I think sometimes in this country we mistake heart and emotion as world class"

    I'd cast that goal against Newcastle against that. How many players in world football, including Messi, would have tried that, let alone scored it?

  • Comment number 84.

    excuse me, wrong blog!

    The poppy is a symbol of something far greater than political views or religion - it is a symbol understood the world over for the loss of life.

    It is a shame that it isn't a single date shared the world over, but the concept is.

  • Comment number 85.

    damn back button

  • Comment number 86.

    "71.At 19:45 10th Nov 2011, Londoner in exile returns wrote:
    United Dreamer
    @60


    Ah history! Hindsight is a marvelous thing, the fact is Hitler never had a majority vote, scaremongering and muscle count for more in those situations. Fear does the rest."

    He didn't get the majority its true, but he had a significant enough share to manipulate his way into power. It is a recognised aspect of the aftermath of the first world war in Germany that there was more shame than a feeling of remorse of the great losses that was felt in the UK, France and the US. Their cemetaries of war dead are far more discrete, and this has been described as a manifestation of this phenomenon. Of course the immense war reparations didn't help matters.

  • Comment number 87.

    Interesting.I know all the things written here.As refugees thousands live among us and I know how much Somalis love football.Their national team is going to face mine(Ethiopia) and as a close witness I really appreciate how they managed to form a national team under the circumstances they are under.For what I know,their love for football can never be taken away by Al- shabab .No amount of killings can achieve that!In fact,they are more afraid of quitting playing foot ball than the bullets & bombs of Al-shabab.

  • Comment number 88.

    The poppy is a symbol of something far greater than political views or religion - it is a symbol understood the world over for the loss of life.

    It is a shame that it isn't a single date shared the world over, but the concept is.
    ----------------

    What a political statement!

    Its is a symbol used in the UK for 'our' loss of life. It does not symbolise the military and civilian deaths caused by British army involvement in Empire, and latterly in places like Ireland and Iraq.

  • Comment number 89.

    19th October 1986 - the last time Somalia played a FIFA sanctioned match in Somalia. They hosted Uganda in a 0-0 draw.

    @tomlegg

 

More from this blog...

Topical posts on this blog

This information is temporarily unavailable.

Categories

These are some of the popular topics this blog covers.

Latest contributors

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.