FA calls for troops to leave Somali stadium

By Abdifitah Ibrahim CagayareBBC Somali
African Peacekeeping troops in the Somalia National Stadium in Mogadishu

The Somali Football Association has repeated its call for the African Peacekeeping troops to leave the Somalia National Stadium in Mogadishu.

The 70,000-capacity stadium has been occupied by the African Union Mission in Somalia for nearly a decade, preventing it from hosting any sport.

"We ask that [the troops] vacate the stadium in order for it to be used for the purpose it was built for," said Somali FA president Abdiqani Said Arab.

The SFA also made the request in 2013.

Speaking to the BBC Somali Service, Said Arab said he wants to see the return of "Somali youth participate in sports activities, as well as associations such as the Olympics doing their work (in the stadium)".

"We are making such repeated requests so that we can prepare ourselves as other countries are doing," he added.

Said Arab said Somalia had been forced to abandon their efforts for this year's Africa Cup of Nations because of their inability to play in their home ground.

Despite being known as one of Africa's more modern and well-designed stadiums - capable of hosting basketball, volleyball and even swimming in addition to football - the Somali National Stadium has barely been used because of over two decades of anarchy and civil war in Somalia.

The stadium's occupiers have changed several times - in the early 1990s American units were based there, as shown in the climax of the movie Black Hawk Down.

It became a base for Ethiopia's troops after they invaded Somalia between 2007-2009. Lastly it became base for the African Union Mission.

Mr Said Arab said the troops are using the stadium as barracks.

The Somali FA has recently started efforts to exploit the relative peace in the capital, with the aim of finally seeing the return of international home matches.

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