FEW local fans can lay claim to have watched Zimbabwe’s opponents on Sunday at Barbourfields Stadium live or on television.
That’s because the opponents’ – Somalia – history makes for some very interesting read.
Here is what our readers need to know about the Ocean Stars of Somalia before they play the Warriors at Emagumeni in a Fifa 2022 World Cup preliminary round second-leg qualifier on Sunday.
1) Somalia and Eritrea are ranked 202nd on the latest FIFA rankings, making them the lowest-ranked national football team in Africa, and one of the weakest on the globe.
2) Somalia last played a home match 33 years ago due to the war that ravaged the country for decades.
3) Only Cayman Islands, Pakistan, British Virgin Islands, Tonga, Turks and Caicos Islands, Anguilla, Bahamas and San Marino are considered by FIFA to be weaker football nations, in the entire world, than Somalia.
4) The Somali Ocean Stars’ home ground, the Mogadishu National Stadium, last played host to an international match in 1988 when an Olympic qualifier was played there and, between 2008 and 2011, it was used as a base by the Islamic militant Al-Shabaab group which considers football to be evil.
Al-Shabaab also used the stadium for some gruesome things, including public executions, when the facility was under their control.
Eight years ago, troops from the African Union’s Peacekeeping Mission In Somalia (AMISOM) took control of the stadium but also turned it into their operational base.
Recently, AMISOM handed over the stadium, which is now in a state of disrepair and still bears the scars of the wars that have been fought around it, with its walls peppered with bullet holes, to the Somali football authorities and they started with clearing the weeds.
Somalia had not played a competitive home match since 1986 when they played Uganda in a ’88 Nations Cup qualifier which ended goalless but the Cranes sailed through 5-0 on aggregate.
5) Mukhtar Ali is one of very few prominent footballers from Somalia, his family fled Mogadishu in 1997 to London when he was only five and he joined Chelsea when he turned 11 and now plays for Dutch club Vitesse.