Historic days in Asmara
“It is a great day for me to welcome my Somali brothers here in Asmara, I wish you a very lovely stay, feel Eritrea as your second homeland” Eritrean football federation President Tesfaye Gebreyesus told the Somali delegation at the Asmara International airport upon arrival.
The atmosphere in Asmara was very cold-it was raining every afternoon and sometimes it was raining ice.
During the opening ceremony of the tourney on August 14, tens of thousands of spectators at the Asmara Stadium all stood and announced (Somalis wake up wake up and unite always helping weak ones among you). This is the song of the Somali national Anthem.
Some high level CECAFA dignitaries were jubilant at how hugely the Eritrean people were supporting the Somali team more than any other national team in the tournament.
“The spectators at the stadium could not remain at their seats-every one stood up announcing the name of Somalia, as soon as the Somali team members were entering the field, this was happening every day that the Somali team had a game and that really made me very happy” CECAFA secretary General, a Kenyan national Nicholas Musonye told the Eritrean TV.
Musonye also praised Eritrea’s preparations to host the big regional football event which was the first time for this small east African country to host such a soccer tournament.
Amir Abdi Hassan, the Somali team leader and CECAFA finance committee member said that the Friendship tournament in Asmara was bigger than any other regional competition he witnessed in the past in terms of preparations, hospitality and the beautiful opening ceremony.
“What we saw in Asmara was unprecedented” Amir Abdi Hassan told journalists on 20th of August, during a visit to the city of Masawa, a good tourist site in Eritrea.
Since Somalia has no international flight connections, the team stayed for three days in Nairobi, where the Somali football family members in Kenya held a large dinner ceremony to see off the team, a night before heading to the volatile Mogadishu.
The dinner ceremony was co-organized by the Somali football community in Kenya, the administrators of the football clubs of Banadir Telecom, Midnimo FC and the East Leigh stars-a soccer clap owned by Somalis living in Nairobi.
The East Leigh stars became the first Somali-owned football club to participate in the Kenyan soccer league.
“Somalia is at war and yet football is developing in Somalia I could not believe that such hard work can be done in a war-weary country like Somalia, but it really happened,” the chairman of Football Kenya Limited (FKL) in the Nairobi province, Mr. Dennis Shilibwa said at the dinner ceremony.
Mr. Dennis Shilibwa, a close friend of the Somali football family members living in Kenya said he was honored to address at the dinner ceremony.