The return journey from military base to national football stadium has been a long one for the Mogadishu Stadium and the Somali FA. On Friday the stadium was full to capacity for the first time since 2004. The SFA only took control of the renovated facility in June last year.
More than 65,000 Somalis packed in for the top of the table league clash between military-owned sports club Horseed and Mogadishu’s municipality team, Mogadishu City Club. Thousands more fans were turned away once the stadium was full.
The teams are joint top of the Somali Premier League with 35 points each. The 0-0 draw means the title will now be decided in the final round of matches of the season next week.
Horseed SC will play Dekedda SC, while Mogadishu City Club will face Gaadiidka FC. If both teams win their final matches, they will meet again in a playoff match to decide the league title.
The completion of the Somali Premier League has been a significant triumph for the SFA. With the full Mogadishu Stadium being a powerful symbol of the return to football in the country after years of violence and unrest.
Built in 1977, Stadium Mogadishu is in many ways a reflection of the unrest and chaos that has frequently engulfed Somalia. The stadium was closed in 1991 when civil war broke out and from 1993 to 1995, the stadium housed US troops and then Pakistani military who were part of the unsuccessful UN peace keeping mission in Somalia.
Reopened at the end of 1995, Stadium Mogadishu was closed again in 2004. From 2007-2009, the stadium was the main base for Ethiopian troops who entered the country to help the Somali government defeat the once powerful Islamic Courts Unions, but by the end of January 2009, the national facility came into the hands of AL Shabaab who were based at the stadium until they were forced to flee the capital on 6 August 2011.
The stadium stayed in military use, as African Union Peace keepers in Somalia (AMISOM) took over AL Shabaab vacated. Finally AMISOM left the stadium on 28 August 2018.