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Somalia celebrates first ever World Cup win

History has been made on Thursday, September 5th in Djibouti’s “El Hajj Hassan Gouled” stadium. The national football team of Somalia celebrated their first ever win at a FIFA World Cup qualifying competition, after seeing off Zimbabwe  by the narrow 1-0 score. This margin might not be enough to see them through next round, as there’s a second leg match in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe in a few days, but after all this result is excellent on its own.

This result broke several records in FIFA World Cup qualifiers history. For example, this is the first time that a team ranked below No200 in (monthly updated) FIFA Ranking System wins a qualifiers tie. Another exceptional record is the margin in ranking positions. According to July 2019 ranking Somalia lies in 202th place, while Zimbabwe is in 98th. That’s a more than huge difference of more than 100 places.

This ranking difference is a countable fact of how surprising was this result, but it cannot include all aspects. You have to get the whole picture. In fact, Somalia national football team is not functioning like a team for some 30 years! In this war-torn country, where the legitimate government’s sway is running out in capital Mogadishu suburbs, no representative team could work properly.

Somalia’s different geographic areas are under control of different administrations. Actually the whole north part functions as a de facto independent state. There are serious safety issues, which force the team to search for a neutral venue for the home games. The most handy is the nearby city-state of Djibouti, where nearly half of the populations are defined as Issaqs, one of the Somali clans of the north.

Somalia played in all FIFA World Cup qualifiers from 2002 onwards, but they’ve been eliminated in the first round at all cases, having a poor record of seven defeats out of seven matches, scoring no goals and letting in no less than 25! The goal Anwar Sidai Shake scored in 86th minute was their first ever in the competition, coming in the right time.

This is a moment of vindication for the manager too. Ghanaian Bashiru Hayford took charge of the Somali national football team just a few months ago. The news of his two-year contract signing with the Somali Football Federation in March was nothing but a footnote, even in soccer-crazy local Ghanaian media. In fact, Hayford left Ghana after a personal lost bet: He was in charge of the women’s national football team (the “Black Queens”), considered as a favorite to qualify to the respective World Cup final phase. Guess what, they didn’t. Eventually, Hayford paid the price and left. But, before leaving the country, he said he’d made headlines soon.

Contrary to other foreign coaches approach, Hayford decided from the first moment to stay in capital Mogadishu. This means that he was in the same danger with his players, as the Somali capital is, even nowadays, becoming a scene of terrorist acts. This gesture forged a strong bond between coach and players. He might not have the best he could, but players realized that someone cares about them. They repaid him with this remarkable result.

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