By Karim Abdul
Somali Soccer’s Continental Reach Scores Big
Every weekend soccer supporters from around the world are treated to great entertainment from different leagues around the world. From EPL to LALIGA to SERIA A to LEAGUE 1, Soccer is beamed in our living rooms for those who prefer to enjoy with the family, while those who prefer to engage rival fans will flood into local pubs to down a few pints while hoping to catch a moment of brilliance from their favorite superstars, such as Wayne Rooney of Manchester United or Olivier Giroud of Arsenal FC.
In most cases this is the highlight of the weekend after a long week of hustle of trying to put food on table for their families in the week. Usually it is a welcome relieve as they recharge for the coming week.
BACK HOME SPL has struck a new High
What’s surprising, though, is that this scene — minus, perhaps, the lack of authentic Somali Social Joints, this crazy love of Soccer — is replicated week in and week out all over the Country, from Jubbalnd in the South to Puntland in the North. The local appeal of Somali Premier League coupled with emerging regional broadcasting agreements, has made the SPL an economic juggernaut. The increase reflects an insatiable appetite among fans.
Since its inaugural season back in 2010, the SPL has grown from a minnow into a whale. Before that from the early 1940s the league was known as a: edition: for example 13th edition and so on.
SPL is slowly gaining corporate recognition besides attracting foreign talent. In 2013/2014 season Nation Link Telcom entered into the scene when they become title sponsor; sponsorship which lasted for only two seasons up to 2014/2015.The recently concluded 2015/2016 season did not have a title sponsor. The Somali Football Federation could not get any title sponsor and therefore they had to pump in some funds to the clubs.
“The Somali Premier League really has gone from strength to strength,” says GoobJoog Sports Editor, Hussein Hadafow. “Increasing broadcasting awareness has been the major reason for the league’s success with new sporting Channels like Goolfm dedicating resources to broadcast sports as well the new Kid in the block Mogadishu Cable who promise to air several Matches in the coming months.”
CLUBS CORPORATE SPONSORSHIP
In the recent past, corporate organizations have recognized a niche that lies in the great visibility they would reap compared to conventional advertising and have dedicated their marketing budgets to club sponsorship perhaps a lesson learnt from leading brands like Sportspesa and East African Breweries in Kenya.
Dekeda Fc received sponsorship in the last two seasons thanks to Albeyrak, a shipping company based in Mogadishu. The contract shall extend to the 2016/2017 season.
Another club enjoying corporate sponsorship is Banaadir Sports Club, the 2015/2016 Champions The club is sponsored by Hass Petroleum. Hass Petroleum has put in a sponsorship deal since 2014 which is still valid for 2016/2017 season. The figures are not known to the public yet.
Sadly however, no other club playing in the SPL boasts of any corporate deal. Perhaps this trend has a lot to do with the team spirit and performance. The two clubs with corporate sponsorship lead the table standings in the 2015/2016 season. Banaadir Sports club are the champions having completed the season as the famous invisibles. They were not beaten in the league last season. Dekeda Fc came 2nd while Jeenyo United was 3rd. Heegan Sports Club and Gaadiidka Sports Club made the top five positions.
MEDIA ATTENTION AND EMERGING LIVE BROADCAST DEALS
In the just concluded 2015/2016 season few matches were broadcast live to the Somali living rooms; Somali National Television and Universal TV taking centre stage. The opening match of the 2015/2016 season between Heegan and Dekeda was broadcast live from Baanadir Stadium where Dekeda won 1:0.
Universal TV also showed live the Super Cup encounter between Heegan, the Police Team and Horseed, the Military Team. Super Cup is played by the current League holders and Second division champions. (UEFA curtain raiser match between UEFA Champions and Europa league champions version).
Somali National TV broadcast live General Daudi Cup on the 17th Dec 2015 a match between Horseed and Heegan. The Military won 2-1. General Daudi was the first Somalia Army Chief.
While SPL still doesn’t match Kenya’s SportsPesa Premier League, one advantage they enjoy is the undivided passion for football in this country. From the young kids to women to the old, the Somali people have very great affection for soccer, the recently concluded Inter State Tourney is prove to my verdict. This affords plenty of opportunity to attract live broadcast deals to feed the ever increasing hunger for soccer in Somali living rooms.
Fans throng the stadiums to watch matches and don’t mind parting with their money to gain access. To access the Stadium one usually pays 1$ an equivalent of 20,000 Somali Shillings for VIP and 0.5$ 10,000 Somali Shillings for the regular seats.
SOCCER BODY FIFA RECOGNITION
Somalia Football Federation has twice received $250,000. The first batch in 2007 was used to revamp Banaadir Stadium to its current International state besides developing grassroots soccer. In 2014 The Federation also received another $250,000 funds popularly known as Goal Project. This was used to build the biggest soccer pitch, the Somalia University Stadium. In the same year, FIFA Head of Football Development in Africa visited Somalia to inspect needs and resource development.
The potential for the Somali Talent has not gone unnoticed by the Governing body that sent a good will message through their twitter account to the Federation for the just concluded successful inaugural Inter State Tourney.
The influx of foreign Coaches has coincided with the rising number of International stars plying their trade in the SPL. Greater professionalism has attracted many International player imports. Indeed several clubs have signed foreign players to be able to compete favorably.
Baanadir’s Coach Hussein Hassan from Uganda signed in mid 2014/2015 season when the team finished 2nd in the league and took full season in charge in 2015/2016 seeing his club crowned Champions unbeaten.
Another club to have signed foreign tactician is Gaadiidka Fc. The head coach is from Kenya. Heegan has acquired the services of Felix, a Nigerian Tactician with International Experience for the 2016/2017 season. Felix got his coaching badges from Holland and Sweden and played football in Nigeria before joining Gor Mahia in Kenya.
Horseed, the Military team is set to unveil a new tactician from Nigeria before the resumption of the 2016/2017 season late this year. Gaadiidka who finished 5th in the 2015/2016 season has the most foreign players. Horseed Fc has five players, Elman Fc has one, the Goalkeeper. Heegan has announced that they are in talks with a couple of foreign stars whom they hope to acquire services from before the upcoming season.
Somalia National team has never qualified to take part in CAF or FIFA. Indeed Somalia has not qualified to be in the group stages.
In the club front, Somalia clubs have taken part in the continental club championships. Notably in 1977, Horseed went all the way into the final Club Cup now Kagame Cup where they lost 2:1 to Kenya’s Lower Union Fc, now Gor Mahia
In the early 90s the edition was dominated by Horseed who won 6 times and Jeenyo won 4 times. The only threat then came from Mogadishu Fc and Madba cada Fc
Indeed those permutations might sound appealing to some potential sponsors as in recent times the SPL has been dominated by Banaadir who have won 5 times and Elman Fc won 6 times.
This dominance strength is only set to grow as the SPL expands its reach into more foreign markets, making Somali soccer a hot commodity for sports-hungry fans the world over.
“Journalists tasked with sports coverage need to stop being armchair Journalists. They have to go out to where the story is. Sadly some of our colleague’s just seat around and make phone calls after which they cook a story and publish” said Hadafow, Goobjoog Sports Editor.
Personally I have followed the league in the last few months and one major observation I have made however is that Hussein Hadafow and his under study Ahmed Qalinle deserve recognition for going to where the story is, a practice which is a true reflection of true Journalism.
The writer is a Senior Producer at GoobJoog News TV.