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Thursday, April 19, 2018


The 2018 ConIFA World Football Cup will be taking place in London between 31 May and 9 June, and will involve 16 teams from near and far, from the Isle of Man (represented by Ellan Vannin) to Tuvalu. Although it will be taking place in the UK, the tournament will be hosted by the Barawa FA, representing the town and district of the same name, which is situated in the southern Somali region of Lower Shabelle.

The Barawa FA was founded in 2016 by a group of Barawani living in the UK, chiefly through the efforts of Haji Munye and Abdikarim Farah, who now fill the respective roles of BFA president and team manager. The organisation decided to apply for ConIFA membership in mid-2016, and their application was accepted. 

The team quickly set about finding opponents, and their first-ever match was a 5:1 defeat against Cricklewood Wanderers on 7 August 2016. Three weeks later, they took part in the first World Unity Cup, which was a qualifying tournament for this year's World Football Cup. They lost their first match 5:0 to Tamil Eelam - who represent the Tamil homeland on the island of Sri Lanka as well as the Tamil diaspora - and also went down 3:2 against the Chagos Islands.

The team picked up their first-ever victory after their participation in the tournament ended, defeating a Tamil XI 3:2 on the day Tamil Eelam secured their qualification for WFC 2018 by defeating Chagos Islands in the World Unity Cup's final match. They've played several friendlies since then, but more on that anon.

According to Haji Munye, the Barawa FA is not a merely football-orientated body, but is also something which can bring Barawani together, wherever they may be. "Our aims are to create awareness and unite all Barawani people and help be part of the rehabilitation of our region. We aim to use football as a tool to share our heritage with the rest of the world and to also develop football back home in Barawa. We are like-minded people who have come together to make a change and we have found an organisation that has given us a platform to be able to accomplish our goals.

"We are based in London but currently have players coming from all over England and was planning on using players from USA and around the world for the main event. We are planning on bringing 3-5 players from Barawa and the surrounding area to be part of our team.

"Omar Ali Sufi is our captain and an integral part of our playing team, he was born in London and has never visited back home due to the civil war and Barawa being unsafe, he is an outstanding player and leader who takes enormous amount of pride [in putting on] the Barawa shirt."

Since its inception, the Barawa FA have invested a lot of time and effort in getting organised football off the ground in the region; a league, consisting of ten clubs, has been created and a group of referees has been trained. Although the BFA have played matches in England, there is one thing missing, according to federation president Manye. "We aspire to building a national stadium in Barawa some time in the future but currently we have no stadium, we have played the majority of our games at Haringey Borough football club and the people there have been amazing and we feel at home."

There is, however, a small football ground near one of the main mosques in Barawa town. It was hosting a match on the afternoon of 12 April between Elman and SYT when a remote-controlled bomb was detonated in the VIP section, which had allegedly been buried there before kick-off. Five people were killed and around a dozen wounded in the attack, responsibility for which was eventually claimed by Somail-based terrorist group Al-Shabab. According to a report carried by Reuters news agancy, it was the first time that they had attacked a football ground. None of the players were hurt in the attack.

The US Mission to Somalia condemned the "deliberate and cowardly attack"via Twitter, adding: "This horrific incident shows desperate attempts by the terror group Al-Shabab to instill fear in the youth who are enjoying their lives. Sports is regarded as a viable tool to promote a healthy and peaceful society."

On a more positive note, Munye and his colleagues within the Barawa FA are proud of their being designated hosts for the 2018 World Football Cup. 

"[Being chosen as] the hosts of the World Football Cup 2018 in London is the one of the biggest accolades we have achieved..We at the BFA have been part of a working committee alongside members of the exco from ConIFA to bring to reality this WFC 2018 and it's been an unbelievable experience. We have had to work daily on so many different aspects of making such an event real. London being a host city has brought up so many barriers but we have managed to overcome them and today we are [a short time] away from seeing 16 nations compete in our World Football Cup."

On the pitch, Barawa have been busy preparing for the tournament, playing a series of friendlies with mixed results. So far this year, they have drawn 0:0 with Hashtag United, a team which combines football with E-sports, defeated the Chagos Islands 4:1 after going a goal down, but lost 7:2 to Yorkshire IFA in a match that was, according to many observers, much closer than the scoreline suggests. They play Surrey IFA in a friendly at the beginning of next month which will be Surrey team's first-ever representative match.

Irish betting company Paddy Power, head sponsors of the World Football Cup (that concludes the free advertising in this article), have placed Barawa as joint third favourites for the competition, but that may give rise to unrealistic expectations. 

Munye himself has more modest aspirations, in no small part due to the fact that, like virtually all Somalis, his players are all practicing Muslims; the competition will be taking place during the Muslim month of Ramadan, and that will mean that they will be taking total fasts from just before sunrise until sunset. 

"This World Cup will be our first ConIFA competition and we are no way near winning the competition. We are so proud at the exposure we received so far for being the host team and just want to ensure the competition passes smoothly and enjoyably. We will be fasting during the competition and that makes it near enough impossible to compete. 

"We have been paired with Ellan Vannin, Tamil Eelam and Cascadia. We have played both Tamil Eelam and Ellan Vannin but have no idea of Cascadia. So we know two opponents very well, having lost to both but beating Tamil Eelam on the return leg."

In conclusion, Manye said that: "Our aim is not to be embarrassed by other teams as we are far behind development [compared to] a lot of the other teams [but] we hope to deliver an excellent competition."They will struggle to get out of their group, having been drawn with two of the most powerful sides playing football under the ConIFA umbrella, as well as an unknown quantity in Cascadia. 

Barawa's aim during the tournament is a modest one indeed, but they have been winning friends both on and off the pitch, as well as bringing attention to the ongoing struggles faced by their kith and kin back home in Barawa and attempting to help them in all manner of means. That, in the long run, may be the most important thing the Barawa FA will achieve as hosts in London.



MANAGER: Abdikarim Farah

TECHNICAL STAFF: Adam Savvides, Yusuf Sufi, Daniel Owolabi, Saeed Sufi

CHIEF SCOUT: Haji Mohammed


AUTHOR'S NOTE: Many thanks to Barawa FA president Haji Munye for his assistance with the above article. Some of the other information was taken from sources as diverse as Reuters, Twitter, Wikipedia, ConIFA and various news websites.