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An instant Somali soccer fan

Reporters on the Job: As a homesick British soccer fan working in East Africa, I wasn’t expecting too much when I turned up to watch Somalia take on Uganda in a recent regional tournament. (Read the Monitor's report on Somali soccer here.) Maybe the occasional flash of skill or calamitous error, but nothing to match the English Premier League that I, and most of Africa, am addicted to.

What I ending up getting though, was one of the most enjoyable – and sweaty – soccer experiences I’ve ever had. As soon as I explained why I was there, I was dragged into the crowd by young boys and given a small Somali flag to wave.

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Journalistic impartiality thrown momentarily to the wind, I was soon bouncing up and down with the few hundred men and women, guessing at the words of the Somali national anthem and laughing at the bemused Ugandan fans nearby.

As for the game itself, Somalia ending up losing 4-0 and crashing out of the tournament. But that wasn’t really the point. Almost all the young Somalia supporters in the stand were refugees from a troubled homeland that few could remember. As I left with a host of invitations to stop by at the Somali restaurants in town, I was staggered by the force of their pride.