Somalia moving towards brighter future

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Somalia aim to end Afcon absence

Hampered by a combination of political unrest, a lack of funding and poor infrastructure, Somalia have entered qualifying for the Africa Cup of Nations only once, in 1974.

They will again be absent when qualifying kicks off in June for the 2017 tournament - only one of two countries, alongside Eriitrea, out of the 54 affiliated to the Confederation of African Football to miss out.

But Somalia Football Association president Abdiqani Said believes change is on the horizon.

"Maybe in two-three years, we will be there because now we are improving," he told BBC Sport. "Soon we will finish our stadium, which is under construction.

"In two years' time, we hope to be part of the Nations Cup but football means funds and stability, so we will play when we have good stability, facilities and funds.

"Somalia has been suffering for a long time. We cannot compare to most of the countries in Arica which have good stability and a government that can assist them with financial expenses.

Home disadvantage
Currently, Somalia are not allowed to host official matches for security reasons

"I feel really bad, am feeling pain and it is not good in my heart that we are out of the 2017 Nations Cup. But next time I hope we will be part of 2019."

Somalia used to play its matches in the Mogadishu Stadium, but the country's biggest arena (once capable of holding 65,000) has been commandeered by the African Union (AU) after many years of being under the occupation of the Islamist militant group al-Shabab.

The AU is attempting to keep the peace in a country which descended into civil war in 1991.

With considerable assistance from football's world governing body Fifa, Somalia's FA laid a new artificial turf at the Banadir stadium in northern Mogadishu in 2013.

Work is now ongoing to make the 15,000-capacity stadium ready to host international matches.

"We are hoping it will be finished in June-July," Said, a former FA secretary-general, explained. "It depends on the construction company. We will see."

After Fifa hosted a development course in Mogadishu two years ago, its first there in over a quarter of a century, Somalia also has plans to build a second venue.

This will be part of a new technical centre at Mogadishu's College University Stadium.

The Somalian League is back after a break of seven years
The Somalian League is back after a long enforced break

Despite the challenges, the Somali FA has worked tirelessly to try to get the country's football off the ground.

The first league campaign in seven years kicked off in late 2013, when thousands of fans attended a match at the Banadir Stadium for the first time in over two decades.

Eight teams took part as years of assistance from Fifa, who have helped with training the coaches and developing the grassroots game, finally paid off.

The world body initially helped with the redevelopment of the Banadir Stadium in 2006, only for the venue to be badly damaged because of Somalia's ongoing civil conflict.

The country's league now has 10 teams.

Somalia may not have contested Africa's biggest sporting event for some time but it has entered qualifying for every World Cup since the 2002 edition.

When it attempted to qualify for the 2014 World Cup, a team nicknamed the Ocean Stars played its one and only home match in Djibouti - holding Ethiopia to a goalless draw before losing the return leg 5-0.

And a team ranked 206th out of 208 Fifa members is already preparing for qualifiers for the next finals - in Russia in three years' time.

"The national team is already in training," said Said. "Every country has a dream of being at the World Cup."

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