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How Somalia National Basketball team took Narobi by Storm
Africa

How Somalia National Basketball team took Narobi by Storm

The way their fans chanted in joy and unison, you would have been forgiven for thinking the situation is same back home in Mogadishu. They wore T-Shirts written “I love Somalia.” They lifted their country’s flag high. You could see the passion. That was at the Nyayo National Stadium last week during the 2021 Fiba AfroBasket qualifiers in Nairobi. When their team lost, they were there to console the players. But when they won, it would take security detail to take the fans off the court. They would celebrate and take selfies with the players. Also Read Daniel Maldini continues family dynasty at AC Milan Harden, Giannis spark Rockets, Bucks to big NBA wins The unique world of Novak Djokovic “This is our team. We are very proud of them. They are giving us something to celebrate,” a female fan Sophia Noor said. Somalia is known for anarchy. Young men have enlisted into militant groupings, the main being Al Shabaab. They have turned Mogadishu into a war zone, a town where bomb blasts have become the norm. It has been like this since 1990 when the civil war erupted making thousands flee the country. The sons of those who sought refuge in Kenya then are now the ones out to give the country a different image through basketball. REFUGEES Nicknamed the Civil War Kids, almost the entire Somaliland basketball team that represented the country in Nairobi have never set foot in the country. Most of them were born in refugee camps in Nairobi before relocating to the United States with their parents. In the US, some picked up crime and drugs. Some found themselves jailed. They were not giving any better image of their country. For instance just a few years back, nine Somali-American men were imprisoned by a Minnesota federal court, after they were found guilty of plotting to join the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The Muslim leaders and Imams through their mosques decided to form the Somali Youth Development Organisation of Minnesota (SYDOM) which was able to bring most of the youth together. “When we saw how they are suspected or labelled as extremists, we started to bring them together in order to prevent them from getting involved with drugs. We found a place where they can stay fit and stay busy and avoid negative influences,” Abdikadir Dahir Shiikha the coach of the national team said in an interview. “It has worked because now we have most of our young boys in school pursuing different careers, then we also have those who want to play professional basketball,” adds Shiikha, a former national team player. “Ours is a unique team,” adds Shiikha. “We are here to represent Somalia because we love our country, regardless of all the negativity associated with it. We are not getting much assistance from government, but we are just happy to be here wearing the blue colours of our country and representing our people,” he said. To be in Nairobi, all the players paid for their air fare. Then, Kenyan-based Somali business man Mohamud Jumale Awale, the director of Taaj Money Transfer company in Nairobi paid for their accommodation and transport and also aided in kitting the team together with a Somali-based telecommunications company Hormuud.