Jan 29, 2020

Somaliland: Seeking Self-Determination Through Sport

MENAFN (Somaliland Sun) reported that the unrecognized state of Somaliland is pushing towards self-determination through sports. While the government of Somaliland controls most of the area that it claims and is more stable than the rest of Somalia, it has still not managed to gain international recognition as an independent state, despite having declared its independence in 1991 after the Somali civil war.

Below is an article by MENAFN (Somaliland Sun)


While Somaliland has no national team nor a national league, the Somaliland Director of Sports, Mohammed Nuh, stated that “the government is doing its best through political-diplomatic ways to push for international recognition, but we also want the world to acknowledge us as a state through sports.”


While Somaliland has everything you would expect from a country, such as their own passports, currency, flag, and parliament – the president was even democratically elected in a 'smooth and peaceful' election – they lack any international recognition as a nation state, and are thus barred from competing in any international competitions under the name of Somaliland. Moreover, unlike South Sudan, which held a referendum and managed to separate successfully from Sudan before being admitted by CAF and FIFA, Somaliland, which also had a referendum to secede from Somalia, is yet to be accommodated.


As such, while the young Somalilander sportsmen and women may have unrivalled love for the sport and dream to play abroad or for their country, but that will only remain as is, a dream at least until the country gains international recognition. Fahti Najah (22), considered one of the best football players in Somaliland, said “It's sad that we cannot get a chance to market our talent beyond our borders because our country is not recognized.”


Currently, Somaliland’s footballers are looking to Kosovo and Gibraltar as successful examples of gaining political recognition and FIFA membership. Mohammed Nuh stated 'We are looking at this (Kosovo and Gibraltar) as our inspiration towards joining the world football family.” While there is a already a national tournament in Somaliland – the Somaliland Football Association’s bi-annual inter-regional football tournament, in which all 13 regions participate – the case is complicated by the fact that the country is still viewed internationally as part of Somalia, which is already a member of both the Confederation of African Football (CAF) and FIFA.


The situation is very hard for young people in Somaliland. The territory faces high youth unemployment and many young Somalilanders (including children as you as 13) try to cross the Red Sea, most of whom die before reaching their destination. Due to Somaliland’s lack of international recognition, it is ineligible to receive international assistance. As such, Somalilanders lives on average on $347 per year. The infant mortality rate is extremely high (1 in 11 don’t make it to their 5th birthday) while life expectancy is around 50.


With such little hope for a prosperous life, many young Somalilanders put their hopes into football. “Football is an international language and if we would have been playing at the international stage and our players using their talent to represent Somaliland, maybe today we would have been recognized internationally,” said Najah.