We here at YPT love nothing more than a good autonomous region and football. So, combine both and you’ll find yourself with Somaliland! Located in the northern region of their former counterpart Somalia, Somaliland functions as a de facto country with its own government. After gaining independence from Britain, Somaliland unified with Somalia in 1960. A civil war followed and Somaliland re-declared independence in 1991. Neither Somalia nor any other country has recognized its sovereignty. Despite the questionable safety of Somalia, Somaliland is seen as a lot safer than many of their eastern African neighbours.
Somalia are hardly a dominating footballing force in Africa, let alone on the world stage. So how well does Somaliland do on the football pitch?
History of Football in Somalia
Somaliland have had a pretty rough past, so football was never on the forefront of anyone’s mind. Thousands of Somalilanders were killed during the civil war, and the country was left on its knees! Thankfully, after years of rebuilding Somaliland is now calm and quite a safe place to visit.
During the rebuild, the Somaliland Football Association (SFA) was founded in 2014. The aim of the SFA was to bring footballers from Somaliland and Somalilanders from all around the world together, and give them a platform to represent Somaliland in international football competitions.
The SFA was founded by Ilyas Mohamed. Born in the capital city of Somaliland – Hargeysa. He later moved to the United Kingdom after the Somali civil war, from where he founded the SFA. As a result, The SFA is currently managed by the Not4Gotten Foundation from London, England. The team is mostly made up from Somalilanders who live in the UK, including a PE teacher and hospital administrator.
As Somaliland are an unrecognised country, they are not eligible to become members of the Confederation of African Football (CAF), or FIFA. As a result, they were granted membership into CONIFA in 2015. CONIFA is essentially the equivalent of FIFA but for de-facto nations, regions and minority peoples such as Transnistria, Western Sahara and South Ossetia.
Their first-ever game came in 2014 against Sealand, a micronation based on a former military platform in the North Sea, which resulted in a 2-2 draw. That was followed by a friendly match against the Chagos Islands, who are another CONIFA member who were founded in the UK to represent the people of the Indian Ocean islands. The game was played at Coles Park in North London. In a tight affair, the game finished in a respectable 1-1 draw for both sides.
How Are They Getting on in Competitive Football?
Somaliland made their competitive debut at the 2016 CONIFA World Football Cup which was held in Abkhazia, which is one our favourite breakaway countries! They were drawn in a tough group alongside Sápmi, a team that represent the Sápmi people who inhabit northern parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. They were also drawn against Panjab, who are another UK based team representing the community of the Panjab. It’s safe to say it was a baptism of fire for the Somalilanders!
In their first game against Sápmi they were convincingly beaten 5-0, before going on to lose by the same scoreline two days later to Panjab. As is the format of CONIFA, placement games are drawn to determine the final standings of each team. Somaliland were drawn to play the Chagos Islands, who themselves were sent packing from the group stages by hosts Abkhazia and Western Armenia. It was a thrilling encounter in Gagra, which Somaliland won 3-2! The victory set up a second-round placement match against Székely Land of Romania. Unfortunately, this was as far as they got as they were on the receiving end of a 10-3 demolition. Subsequently, this defeat confirmed a tenth-placed finish for Somaliland in the tournament.
Somaliland failed to qualify for the 2018 CONIFA World Football Cup, but have played a whole host of friendlies around the UK in recent years, including victories against the Bangladesh Community in Wales, the Pakistani Community UK and South Wales Police.
Do Somaliland Have a Domestic League?
There are claims that the Somaliland Football Association runs a national league which consists of 12 semi-professional clubs, however, finding any kind of information or results of this tournament is proving to be an impossible task.
However, during a recent YPT tour to Somaliland – which happened to coincide with Ramadan – we arranged for our tour group to go and watch a Ramadan League football match. So we can only assume that some kind of football is being played is Somaliland, but whether it’s an official league or just a group of mates having a kick around is yet to be known!
Young Pioneer Tours have now been running tours to Somaliland for a number of years. Join us on our Somaliland Independence Tour to see one of the planet’s least visited destinations for yourself! You can secure YOUR place now with a €50 deposit, or you can take advantage of our Young Pioneer Tours Membership Program from as little as €60.