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‘World’s Most Dangerous City’ Mogadishu in Somalia Holds Nighttime Soccer Match for the first time in 30 Years

Since the collapse of Somalia's central military government in 1991, Somalia sports have lacked an infrastructure, and athletes have been threatened by radical militants

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People gather for the soccer match between Hodan and Waberi districts, Mogadishu's first night game in 30 years, at Konis Stadium in Modadishu, Somalia (VOA)
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Somalia, September 12, 2017 : For the first time in more than 30 years, thousands of residents and fans watched a nighttime soccer match in Mogadishu, often described as the world’s most dangerous capital.

Thousands of fans enjoyed the event at Konis Stadium, which the international soccer organization FIFA recently renovated.

Although the match, the final of a citywide club tournament for 16- to 18-year-olds, took place under tight security, it was historic for the city, which has dealt with terrorist suicide bombings and anarchy.

After the match, in which Waberi beat Hodan 3-0, Mogadishu Mayor Tabit Abdi Mohamed said the city’s residents deserve security — and more than a nighttime soccer game.

“Tonight is clearly a historic night that our people, the people of this city, waited for for more than 30 years. I reaffirm that Mogadishu is secure and people deserve more than this,” Mohamed said. “You deserve every kind of entertainment and sports that people in other world capital cities get.”

Hassan Wish, the chairman of Mogadishu’s sports activities who organized the tournament, said they decided to hold the nighttime game to send a message that Mogadishu is on the road to betterment.

Somalia
Football players from Hodan district (orange) and Waberi district (yellow) play in the first nighttime game in 30 years in Modadishu, Somalia (VOA)

“To publicize and make it a significant signal to the city’s returning security, the match was held at a nighttime. It was broadcast live on several local television channels,” Wish said. “The city is back on its way to good old days.”

Stadium now a military base

The Somali Football Federation said the Friday night game in Mogadishu took the country back to 1988, when night games were played at the city’s main Mogadishu stadium. The stadium has been and remains a military base for African Union peacekeepers, which drove al-Shabab militants out of the city in 2011.

“We hope this will be the first of similar peaceful matches in our city. It is not the first for Mogadishu, but for me, I have never seen in my life a soccer game being played at night in Mogadishu,” said Dahir Osman, a 20-year-old resident. “I was born in a lawless capital and grew up all these years without witnessing such a hope-reviving event.”

The seaside capital is working to lose the label of “the world’s most dangerous city.”

The name was attached to the city after the collapse of the former central government in 1992, when a famine struck Somalia and political jockeying began. That led to a civil war and deadly armed violence spearheaded by clan warlords who entered the city.

Last month, popular Somali referee Osman Jama Dirah was shot to death near his home in the city.

“The city is enjoying a reviving peace, except for the infrequent al-Shabab terrorist attacks. Now, playing a soccer game at night means the city is rearing its beautiful head again,” said Aden Osman, a 58-year-old resident who has never left Mogadishu.

Somalia
Somali security forces patrol during the soccer match between the Hodan and Waberi districts at Konis Stadium, renovated by FIFA, in Modadishu, Somalia, Sept. 8, 2017. It was the city’s first night game in 30 years. (VOA)

“I was born in this city and still live here. I have witnessed the best and the worst times of the city. But now, I see a reviving hope on the horizon,” Osman said.

Residents return

Thousands of Somalis from the diaspora have been returning to Mogadishu over the past three years, opening new, Western-style restaurants along the beach. The buildings that have been destroyed by the bullets and mortars are now being rebuilt.

Many U.N. workers, who had been operating from Nairobi, the capital of neighboring Kenya, are moving back to the city, and some foreign embassies have reopened.

Since the collapse of Somalia’s central military government in 1991, Somalia sports have lacked an infrastructure, and athletes have been threatened by radical militants.

ALSO READ In Somalia, Rape is a Common Sight: Labeled as Worst Country for Women

In 2006, the Islamic Courts Union, which controlled large swaths of the country’s south and central regions, which include Mogadishu, prohibited women from playing sports, especially basketball, labeling it as a “satanic act” against the principles of Islam.

The group also put restrictions on men and banned watching international soccer matches from televisions and designated cinemas, saying the men should spend their time on their religious responsibilities. (VOA)

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Why the Grand National is Such a Major Sporting Event?

Whether you’re intrigued by the majesty of the race, backing your favourite horse, or just attending for the splendid occasion, the Grand National is one of the biggest sporting events in the UK

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Here is why the Grand National is one of the biggest sporting events in UK. Pixabay
  • Grand National is one of the biggest sporting events
  • Everywhere it garners a massive audience
  • Almost everyone in the United Kingdom is a huge fan this horse racing event

Every year, the Grand National garners a massive gathering. But, this huge crowd of people watching the Grand National at the venue and on television isn’t the collective of horse racing fans. Almost everyone in the United Kingdom, regardless of horse racing fandom and knowledge, has a flutter on the major event. Now, thanks to the wonders of the internet, people all over the world are tuning in and watching the horses that they back.

But why exactly does the Grand National stand in such high prestige, and how does it draw such a massive audience?

The Race Itself

Source: BBC Sport, via Twitter
Source: BBC Sport, via Twitter

The Grand National is one of the premier jump events on the horse racing calendar – likely only trailing the Gold Cup at the Cheltenham Festival in the opinion of most. To add to the trials of the jumps, the race takes place over a massive four miles and two-and-a-half furlongs. As the longest race in Great Britain, that also incorporates jumps, it’s seen as a great test of skill and stamina for the horses and jockeys.

Due to the nature of the race as well the massive field of competing horses – the most to line up was 66 horses in 1992 – upsets occur regularly. The last five winners have all had starting prices above 10/1, including One For Arthur’s 14/1 in 2017, Rule The World’s 33/1 in 2016, and Auroras Encore’s 66/1 in 2013.

At the 2018 Randox Health Grand National (14th April), there’s still a huge field of horses for people to back. According to William Hill, Blacklion, Tiger Roll, and Total Recall are the favourites at 10/1, but that doesn’t preclude the 16/1 The Last Samurai, or the 33/1 Vieux Lion Rouge from winning.

So, whether you back the favourite horse by the bookies, your favourite number, or a grey horse, there’s always the chance that your horse will stay in the race and jump all 30 fences while others fall by the wayside.

The Occasion

Source: BBC Merseyside, via Twitter
Source: BBC Merseyside, via Twitter

While other horse racing venues, such as Cheltenham and Epsom, boast the more recognisable tracks, Aintree is not only a scenic location, but it’s also in an area of residence. It’s known as the People’s Race; being so entrenched in the local community of Aintree embodies that sentiment.

With the Grand National seen as a major date on the calendar, people dress up in their finest and wackiest attire. Aintree is flooded with people who want to see the annual race as well as get swept up in all of the pageantry and the atmosphere.

One pub in particular now goes hand-in-hand with the Grand National. The Queens, which stands just a minute away from the racecourse, says that the Grand National weekend is the best of the year. With the bar open, barbecues fired up, and lots of music, The Queens becomes the perfect post-race venue.

Also Read: ‘Trojan Horse’ Antibody Strategy Shows Promise Against Ebola Virus

Much of the buzz comes from everyone having the chance to win a bet. This gets people cheering in a sport that they may not follow for most of the year. In fact, last year, it was predicted that in the UK alone, around £250 million was wagered on the Grand National.

Whether you’re intrigued by the majesty of the race, backing your favourite horse, or just attending for the splendid occasion, the Grand National is one of the biggest sporting events in the UK every year.