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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.

Sports

Mo Farah aiming to challenge Kipchoge, Wanjiru in London Marathon

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AFP — LONDON – British athletics great Mo Farah admitted Tuesday he faces an uphill battle to win Sunday’s London marathon with the likes of two-time winner Eliud Kipchoge in the field but says he will fight for a podium place.

The 35-year-old Somalia-born runner — who twice achieved the 5,000-10,000m Olympic double — said one bonus for his third attempt is that he no longer has to think about conserving energy for a track campaign.

Farah, who stopped at the halfway point in the 2013 race and finished eighth in 2014, retired from the track at the end of last season after just missing out on a third successive world championship 5km-10km double in London.

“It’s a great feeling not to have the same pressure as I do on the track,” Farah told a pre-race press conference.

“If the guys set off at world-record pace, I’ll go with them, why not? A win would be amazing for me. It’s going to be different but every race I go into I aim to fight for a podium place.”

Farah, whose decision to not train full-on for the 2014 London Marathon paid off as he went on to win European gold at 5km and 10km, said he had mapped out a strategy for the race.

“My aim is to stick to my own plan,” said Farah. “The team at the London Marathon have put together an amazing field with guys like Eliud Kipchoge and Daniel Wanjiru.

“I’m only ranked 27th, so I just have to stick to my plan and see what happens.”

Farah, now living in London after splitting from controversial US coach Alberto Salazar, said he had no regrets about switching to the road even though he cast an envious glance at the competitors in the distance events at the Commonwealth Games.

“I watched the Commonwealth Games and I wondered whether I could have done that double (5,000m and 10,000m),” he said. “Maybe. But as an athlete you have to set yourself new challenges. You have to enjoy what you do.”

AFP

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Canada

Canadian Mohammed Ahmed wins silver medal in Commonwealth 5,000M

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CANADIAN PRESS — GOLD COAST, Australia — Canadian Mohammed Ahmed earned silver Sunday in the 5,000 metres on the first day of track and field at the Commonwealth Games.

Uganda’s Joshua Cheptegei won gold in 13 minutes 50.83 seconds, ahead of Ahmed in 13:52.78 and Kenya’s Edward Zakayo in 13:54.06.

“I’ve been at the cusp for many years, but I finally get to stand on the podium and hopefully (one day) I get to climb one more step,” said the 27-year-old Ahmed, who was fifth in the 5,000 and sixth in the 10,000 at the 2014 games in Glasgow.

Ahmed was sixth in the 5,000 and eighth in the 10,000 at last year’s world championships, both Canadian-best finishes. At the 2016 Rio Olympics, he was fourth and 32nd, respectively, in the races.

Born in Mogadishu, Somalia, Ahmed spent the first 10 years of his life in Kenya before his family moved to St. Catharines, Ont.

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Briefing Room

Around 500 Somali youth participate in historic marathon

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Somalia has hosted its first mini-marathon in three decades. The event is aimed at seeking international support for Somali youth; and was organised by the country’s ministry of sports. CGTN’s Abdulaziz Billow is in Mogadishu and filed this report.

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