Security fears and lack of facilities fail to stop delegation
Naples, July 11 – Everyone taking part in the 2019 Napoli Universiade has had to overcome hurdles to be here.
But the challenges that the Somalia delegation has faced to end a 30-year hiatus from the World University Games have few rivals.
“We were in civil war for a long time and the first victim was sport,” Arale Omar, the delegation head and coach of the Somali team, told ANSA at Naples’ San Paolo stadium, where the track-and-field events at the Games are being held.
“The last time we participated in the Universiade was 1989, in Duisburg, Germany, West Germany then, and I was the one taking part.
“Then in 1990 the civil war started and it lasted until 2012, when we got a federal government and we started rebuilding Somali sports.
“We started with basketball, football and athletics with national competitions in Somalia.
“But this is the first time we managed to get students to participate in the Universiade after 30 years”.
The Somali delegation is made up of Omar, another official and two athletes.
Dahabo Zubeyr is taking part in the women’s 200m and 400m and Ahmed Muhumed is in the men’s 1,500 and 5,000 metres. “Logistically, we have every problem you can imagine,” Omar said.
“Number one, we don’t have stadiums for the athletes to train in.
“The second problem is the female athletes don’t have the courage to train outside on their own, so they always have to train inside, because of the security situation.
“The first victims of any kind of chaos are females and weak people.
“The parents don’t have the courage or the means to encourage their daughters or their sisters to run or play basketball”.
Another big obstacle is bureaucracy.
“We don’t have functioning embassies,” he said. “To come to Naples for the 2019 Universiade, my two females, one athlete and an official, had to travel to Nairobi with a Kenyan visa and a $500 ticket in order to go to the Italian embassy just to get the visa and then come back to Mogadishu to fly to Naples”.
Omar, a former 400m and 800m competitor, said he is in talks with International University Sports Federation FISU to try to make the procedure easier for his team next time.
He thanks FISU for paying for the athletes’ flight tickets to make the 2019 Universiade adventure possible.
But he had to make personal sacrifices too.
“I paid my own ticket, I paid my own lodging; he said.
“I left my work just to help the Somali student team come here to participate”.
Omar said Zubeyr is the first Somali woman athlete ever to compete in the World University Games.
“This is her first international competition,” he explained.
“Over the last few days I have been training her just to know how to use the blocks, how to listen for the starting gun.
“There’s no track in Somalia. When she was in Somalia, she used to run on dirt. “So she came here and she had to practise on a track.
“She started feeling muscle pains but today she ran and it’s a good sign. “I hope a lot of young female athletes will follow in her footsteps”.