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Minnesota Somalis Barred Mainstream Media from Soccer Tournament

Mshale, News Report, Abdiaziz Ahmed Posted: Jul 24, 2009

MINNEAPOLIS Organizers of a recent Somali Independence Day soccer competition barred some Twin Cities mainstream media journalists from covering the tournament.

Tournament officials accused mainstream media journalists of a continuous negative publicity and profiling of the community in a bad light, Abdirizack Ismail Said Maashal, the tournaments spokesperson, told Mshale.

Maashal said the organizers made the decision because they doubted the sincerity of mainstream medias renewed interest in the community after ignoring pleas from organizers to cover the tournament in previous years.

Its six years now since the inception of the tournament and no media house honored our invitations to come and cover this important annual event, said Maashal.

Maashal vowed not to allow anyone with malicious intentions to come and wreck the spirit of the eventful competitions, which he said were aimed at motivating Somali youth to engage in sports and other gainful activities to better their lives and shape their moral upbringing. He questioned mainstream medias sudden interest and change of heart and accused them of focusing their reporting on the negative aspects of the Somali-American community.

The Somali communitys distrust of mainstream media has heightened following an FBI probe into the disappearance of more than 20 Somali-American young men, who many believe left Minnesota to fight alongside Al-Shabab militants in Somalias civil war.

Maashal alleged that a local television news reporter trying to gain access to the stadium threatened him, saying he had an absolute right as an American to do his journalistic work with or without Maashals consent. 

Maashal asked other communities not to judge the Somali-American community based on negative portrayals in the mainstream media, but to take time and study his community's contributions in the United States.

Please get to know us before you judge us because we are Somali Americans and we are proud of it, he said. We need encouragement and not discrimination.

The annual tournament was held to commemorate the 49th anniversary of Somalias independence. A total of 16 teams from across the U.S participated in this years competition, touted to be the toughest so far. It took place from Thursday June 25 through July 4th. 

Hundreds of Somali Americans residing in the Twin Cities and environs flocked to the Central High School Stadium to watch the soccer competition.

Minneapolis Somali Tigers beat archrivals San Diego United 3-2 in the final to win the tournament for the second consecutive year. Other teams that took part in the competition included Cedar Stars from Minneapolis, La Cruz from St Cloud, Eden Prairie, Rochester and FC Owatonna. Somali communities from Massachusetts, Ohio and Texas also sent teams to the tournament. 

Maashal said plans were underway to organize friendly matches with Somali soccer clubs in Sweden and other parts of Europe to nurture the talent of upcoming soccer youngsters and foster mutual understanding amongst the youth.

He cited a lack of adequate funding as the biggest challenge facing tournament organizers and called on well wishers to come forward and sponsor the tournament. Participating teams consisting mainly of youth in school paid $700 to take part in the tournament.

Ali Qeys, the manager of La Cruz United, one of the teams that participated, said in addition to the participation fee, clubs also paid for their own transportation, medical and the sports kitty, an issue he said that needs an urgent intervention.

North America Somali Sports President Abdi Ali, Abdirizack Mahboub of Cedar Riverside Center and Hussein Samatar, the Executive Director of African Development Center also graced the occasion.

Related Articles:

After Minneapolis, FBI Eyes Atlanta's Somalis

Somali Woman's Illness and A Family's Quest for Healing

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