A mortar attack marred the reopening of Somalia’s national stadium after 16 years of inactivity.

Stadium Mogadishu, which has been used as a military base for much of the time since 2004, was officially reopened as a sports venue on Tuesday by the country’s President, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed. Civil unrest and occupation by various forces had seen the stadium in the East African nation’s capital fall into disrepair over much of the past two decades.

In the inaugural match at the 35,000-capacity venue, Somali Military sports club, Horseed SC, beat Mogadishu City Club 2-1. The game took place three months after renovations were completed on the arena following years of neglect and numerous attacks.

However, the celebrations came to a halt when the stadium was attacked by three blasts just hours after its reopening, with the moment caught live on TV. There have so far not been any reports of casualties.

No group has taken responsibility for the attack although local reports have linked the attack to the Islamist militant organisation, al-Shabab, which occupied the stadium for some time during its closure.

Somali Football Federation president, Abdiqani Said Arab, said that the reopening match of the facility will be recognised as the biggest football development in the country in 2020.

“Stadium Mogadishu is now ready and Somali Football Federation is pleased to announce that Ocean Stars will be able to play their home games in the country,” the SFF president said, adding that the new federation headquarters will be built next to the facility with the financial assistance from FIFA. “We will also use the facility to host other football activities.”

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The stadium, first opened in the 1970s, will be used for national team matches in the future. Somalia took part in the opening round of CAF FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ qualifiers last September but, after playing their home match in Djibouti, suffered a narrow 3-2 aggregate defeat against Zimbabwe.

Meanwhile, Waamo Football Stadium, in the port city of Kismayo some 500km south of Mogadishu, which is being reconstructed under the FIFA Forward Project, is expected to be completed before the end of the year.

Image: Somalian FA