The football fraternity in Somalia is a divided house even over the running of the sport even as the country awaits for the historic visit by FIFA President.
Giovanni Vincenzo “Gianni” Infantino visit will come a few weeks after the controversial election of Abdigani Said Arab to lead the Somalia Football Federation for another four year term in office.
SFF boss Abdiqani Said Arab announced that Gianni will be visiting Mogadishu to assess FIFA projects and football state in the Horn of Africa country that is emerging from decades of civil war.
But not all are excited about this tour that may put Somalia on the footballing world map.
In an interview with Radio Dalsan on Wednesday former SFF official A. Abdale said the federation has to clean up it’s house ahead of Gianni’s arrival.
“SFF is in a mess. The elections were a sham. The visit will damage FIFA’s reputation since it will be endorsing a leadership that was not democratically elected” Abdalu said.
Critics of the long term SFF boss claim he personally organized for the election sidelining other football stakeholders.
They term the election a “PR stunt” by Abdigani to blindfold the world football organization.
“Somalia’s football is doomed as long as the SFF boss remains in office” Salma Elmi a football fan in Mogadishu told Radio Dalsan.
“Abdigani has interest in about ten football clubs out of thirty . How do you expect the elections to be free and fair when the clubs representative are part of the election? Elmi asked.
There had been allegations of corruption in the SFF under Abdigani’s leadership but the football boss has brushed such claims aside as deterrent from his critics.
FIFA has recently been pro active to end corruption in Africa football which has in the past gained a reputation for being the most corrupt continent in the running of football.
A women football player Meymuna Isse told Dalsan that SFF leadership has turned a total blind eye on the Somalia Women football which recently has gained popularity locally.
“At a time when women football has attracted many young women players it is sad that we are neglected by the federation” Isse said.
Abdigani has in the last eight years led the SFF as Chairman and Secretary General but been an official for almost seventeen years.
The Federation provides no training facilities for the women’s team. The Federation also gives no funding for the women’s team. It’s not clear if the Somalia Football Federation has made the necessary efforts to inform CAF and FIFA that there is a women’s team and department.
Based on the CAF and FIFA websites, there is no formal recognition of the Somalia women’s team. This is important. As you know, FIFA have funding available for women’s football. However, without the support of the Somalia Federation, there can be no formal recognition. This is blocking funding.
If you look at the Somali Football Federation website https://www.somsoccer.com/english/, this can provide context. In Somalia, there are 23 pro men’s football clubs, 21 men’s national tournaments played in 18 regions, supported by the Federation and 18 Committees.
So it is interesting to compare the support for women. The Federation cannot give ‘one’ desk to the women’s department. There is not ‘one’ football field available. There is not ‘one dollar’ of funding for the women. Also, there is not ‘one’ mention of a women’s team on their website.
Gianni’s announced visit will be the first by FIFA president in post civil war Somalia.
Gianni is expected to inspect the newly constructed SFF premises the first to be built in Somalia. Previously the federation rented offices.
FIFA’s Forward Development Programme funded the project.
“This will be the first building owned by the federation in its whole history. It is being built as the SFF is benefitting from the new development initiatives created by the President of FIFA Mr.Gianni Infantino” Arab told a FIFA publication in 2017.
Somalia’s relation with the world football organisation goes back to 1951.