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New African soccer boss open to Somalia hosting games again

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MOGADISHU, Somalia – Somalia could host international games again for the first time in nearly 30 years after the new head of African soccer said on Tuesday he’s open to the idea.

Confederation of African Football president Ahmad invited Somalia to start by organizing friendly games against neighbour Djibouti in the Somali capital Mogadishu. Mogadishu last hosted a senior international in 1988.

Somalia has been wracked by violence and chaos since the early 1990s, first because of a civil war and now deadly attacks by homegrown Islamist extremist group al-Shabab.

But the situation has improved.

Somalia President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed used Ahmad’s visit to request his country be allowed to host international soccer again.

Ahmad, who beat longtime African soccer boss Issa Hayatou in an election last month, made a two-day visit to Somalia on Monday and Tuesday, his first official trip as CAF president.

“Holding friendly matches in Mogadishu will help a lot to encourage sports and help Somalia regain its sports glory and I have asked Djibouti and Somalia to start playing the first friendly matches,” Ahmad said.

Ahmad also promised to lobby Somali officials so that Mogadishu’s biggest stadium can be used for soccer again. The 33,000-seat stadium currently acts as a base for African Union troops, who are in the country to help fight al-Shabab.

Sports authorities in Somalia have tried a number of times to get the stadium back.

“I have met Somali leaders and they agreed to have the stadium handed over so that sports can be played there again,” Ahmad said. “And I shall push this further with relevant authorities.”

Somalia has never qualified for the World Cup or African Cup of Nations but soccer is easily the country’s most popular sport.

“Somalia is a football country and has no history with any other sport,” said Mohamed, who is also a new leader having been elected in February.

While Somalia has never made it to the top tournaments, it plays regularly in the EastAfrican regional tournament. For decades, the team has been forced to play its “home” games in neutral countries like Ethiopia and Djibouti because of security fears in Mogadishu.

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Looking back on my Investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace | Mo Farah

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I recently had the honour of being knighted by Her Majesty The Queen at Buckingham Palace. When I came to the UK from Somalia aged 8, not speaking any English, who would have thought that my running would eventually lead me here? This was another very special gold medal for me and I am so honoured to have received it. Here’s a little glimpse of how the day went for me.

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Somalia, Sudan pull out of CECAFA Cup in Kenya

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THE VANGUARD — Somalia and Sudan have pulled out of next month’s CECAFA Challenge Cup in Kenya, reducing the field to only 10 teams from the central, northern and southern African zones.

Organisers of the Council for East and Central Africa Football Associations (CECAFA) tournament said Somalia, which has been mired in internal conflict, was having difficulty getting a team together for the December 3-17 championships.

Three-time champions Sudan have asked to be left out of the competition because their national football league is still in progress. North African team Libya has been invited to take part for the first time as a guest team, alongside five-time Council of Southern African Football Associations (COSAFA} champions, Zimbabwe. Libya have been drawn to play hosts Kenya in a tough Group A, alongside Rwanda, Tanzania and Zanzibar.

Defending champions Uganda have been drawn in the relatively easier Group B against Burundi, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Zimbabwe.

Kenya are hosting the CECAFA Challenge Cup as a consolation after losing the right to stage the 2018 African Nations Championships due to concerns around the uncertain political situation in the country.

The CECAFA organisers hope the two-week tournament — to be played in the towns of Kisumu, Kakamega and Nakuru — might help unite Kenya after a drawn-out and divisive presidential election period.

The draw for the December 3-17 event is: Group A: Kenya, Libya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Zanzibar Group B: Uganda (holders), Burundi, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Zimbabwe.

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Italy fails to qualify for 2018 World Cup after drawing with Sweden

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ITALY has missed out on qualifying for the World Cup for the first time since 1958 after being held to a 0-0 draw by Sweden at the San Siro in Milan.

After suffering a shock 1-0 loss in the first leg in Sweden, the men in blue couldn’t find the back of the net on Tuesday no matter how hard they tried. The scoreless draw meant Sweden won 1-0 on aggregate and the Azzurri will now be watching the 2018 World Cup from afar.

Before the match the prospect of Italy missing out on football’s showpiece event was described as the “apocalypse”, and that apocalypse has now arrived.

Italian ‘apocalypse’ is real

Italy will be watching the 2018 World Cup from home after it drew 0-0 with Sweden in their do-or-die World Cup qualifier on Tuesday morning.

Heading into the clash with a 1-0 deficit after suffering a shock loss to the Swedes in the first leg of the two-match tie, the Azzurri were unable to find a breakthrough at the San Siro in Milan and will now miss their first World Cup since 1958.

“I’m not sorry for myself but all of Italian football. We failed at something which also means something on a social level. There’s regret at finishing like that, not because time passes,” Italian goalkeeper and captain Ginaluigi Buffon said.

“There is certainly a future for Italian football, as we have pride, ability, determination and after bad tumbles, we always find a way to get back on our feet.

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“I leave a squad of talent that will have their say, including Gigio Donnarumma and Mattia Perin. I want to give a hug to Chiello, Barza, Leo and Lele, who I had almost 10 years alongside. I thank the lads who were with us and, although it wasn’t enough, I hope that we gave them something.
“In football you win as a group, you lose as a group, you divide the credit and the blame. The coach is part of this entire group.”

It’s a crushing blow for a country that has won football’s most prestigious tournament four times. Despite finishing with 75 per cent of the possession after 90 minutes and taking 23 shots to Sweden’s four, luck deserted the home side and the scoreless draw crushed Italian hearts.

Italy enjoyed its fair share of luck as Sweden was denied what looked like two clear-cut penalties for handballs, first by Matteo Darmian and then Andrea Barzagli. Italy had a penalty appeal of its own waved off by referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz when Marco Parolo was tripped from behind by Ludwig
The Azzurri struggled to carve out clear chances against a solid Sweden side, and tested goalkeeper Robin Olsen only once. Of its 23 shots, only six were on target. El Shaarawy’s powerful shot at the death was the best of the opportunities but Olsen was up to the task and parried it away.

The Brazilian-born Jorginho was handed his competitive debut by Italian coach Gian Piero Ventura, and the midfielder impressed with some deft passing. He created Italy’s best chances with two throughballs for Ciro Immobile, who hit the netting from a tight angle from one. Immbobile beat Olsen with another but Andreas Granqvist got back for a decisive goal-line clearance.

Alessandro Florenzi was also back following a year out after twice tearing a knee ligament, and the midfielder forced Olsen into a neat save, while a cross of his was also deflected onto the crossbar in the second half. Meanwhile, the highly rated Lorenzo Insigne surprisingly didn’t get onto the pitch at all.

Sweden has been a giant killer in qualifying as it surged towards a World Cup berth. It had already knocked out 2010 finalist The Netherlands before taking care of Italy on Tuesday.

The last major competitions Italy missed were the 1984 and 1992 European Championships.

It would be easy to lay the blame squarely on Gian Piero Ventura. The Italy coach will naturally take the lion’s share of the responsibility but his side’s problems run much deeper, the rot starting long before he took charge.

After winning the World Cup in 2006 for a fourth time, Italy went out at the group stage of the next two editions. It has fared somewhat better at the European Championships, reaching the final in 2012 and going out in the quarterfinals in 2008 and 2016.

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