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AU Troop Presence At Somali Stadium Postpones Regional Tournament

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The second edition of Somali regional football tournament for peace and development has failed to start on the scheduled time, due to the the presence of African Union Peacekeepers at the country's largest facility 'stadium Mogadishu' where the tournament was expected to kick off by 28th of December 2012, Somali Football Federation (SFF) announced Saturday.

Somali Football Federation secretary General Abdi Qani Said Arab said in a press statement that because of lack of facility his federation decided to postpone the regional tournament until next year.

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"The SFF was very hopeful of AU troop withdrawals from the facility by early December and if they had done so, the Somali Football Federation was expecting to prepare the stadium for hosting the regional event slated for December 28-2012- January 25-2013, but those hopes have died down since stadium Mogadishu is still a military base for AU peacekeepers," SFF secretary General Abdi Qani Said Arab said in his press statement Saturday.

On the 15th of October Somali Football Federation officials visited the facility where they held a lengthy meeting with African Union commander at Stadium Mogadishu captain Angua and other military officials who welcomed the SFF authorities and allowed them to supervise all parts of the facility.

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"This is your place and AMISOM believes that you have the right to visit any time you need, but what I can tell you is that AU troop withdrawals from here depends on a joint decision by Somali government and African Union top commanders," captain Aguga told the SFF officials during the visit on that day.

But in less than a week from the day of SFF demand came, the AMISOM spokesman colonel Ali Aden Hamud told the media that his forces will leave the stadium by December since the Somali football federation needs it and was intended to host the next edition of the regional football tournament for peace and development.

The announcement was a great offer that fully cheered Somali Football federation officials, players and fans in the football-mad nation whose football has been used as a tool of peace building and creating friendship among people in different regions each controlled by hostile warlords or negative Islamist groups opposing each other.

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"The Old facility 'stadium Banadir' is now under reconstruction and stadium Mogadishu is still a military zone, so the Somali Football Federation is obliged to announce the postponement of the regional event which was due to kick off at Stadium Mogadishu by December 28 this year," secretary General Abdi Qani Said Arab noted in his press statement.

He said the old facility which is being rebuilt under the FIFA-funded Win in Africa with Africa project is expected to be able to host tournaments from February next year.

"Once again we are requesting the African Union peacekeepers to return the facility into the people's hands so that it can be used for sports purposes again," SFF secretary General Abdi Qani said Arab emphasised in his press statement Saturday.

After the fall of Somalia in 1991, the country's national facility 'Stadium Mogadishu' several times changed into a military zone used by militias or foreign powers in Somalia since they deemed it as an important strategic ground for tightening the control of the northern parts of the war-devastated Somali capital Mogadishu.

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Shafi'i Mohyaddin Abokar is the NewsBlaze Somalia reporter. Contact him through NewsBlaze. Read more stories by Shafi'i Mohyaddin Abokar.

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