Although torn apart by more than two decades of civil war, chess is still well and kicking in Somalia. A next door neighbour to Kenya, we may find a way to play in a tournament.
Images often associated with Somalia
Somali youths will have yet another thing to pass their tough times and perhaps develop their mental capacities and promote peace as schools in Mogadishu now started to hold regular chess contests among their students, thanks to an initiative by local schools chess association.
The first of its kind, the contests which kicked off on Thursday bring together chess players from a number of schools in Mogadishu who will be competing one another for the next week.
Held in Mogadishu, the opening ceremony was attended by senior Somali government officials including the Deputy Speaker of Somali parliament Omar Dalha, head of Somalia’s Olympic Committee, Aden Haji Yeberow Wiish, and the leader of Somalia’s Chess Federation, Ahmed Abdi Hassan Wata.
Somalia Chess Federation which is a member of the International Chess Federation has organized the event for the local Mogadishu Schools Chess Association, the only schools chess organization in the war-torn country.
Sports is very much appreciated in the chaotic country where most of the facilities have either been destroyed or changed into military bases by the warring sides in the Somali civil conflict that raged for the past two decades.
“Chess is not only a sport and past time but is also a mental exercise that will definitely stimulate the young brain and we hope this will contribute to the healthy development of our young people, and promote peace in our country” Said wata, the top official of Somali Chess Federation, as he spoke during the opening ceremony of the Mogadishu Schools Chess Contest.
The Somalia chess scene
Other dignitaries who spoke at function praised the Somali Chess Federation for its initiative to organizes the chess contest and for encouraging the youth to take up the sport which many of the officials, agreed help promote peace in the war torn country.
Dozens of enthusiastic young students from different schools soon started tussling at each other as they pondered over the chess board and made their deliberate and thought of moves to checkmate their opponent.
“I have been practicing chess for the past several months for this contest and I am very hopeful that I will win over my opponent in this game,” Twelve year old Muse Ali, said as he made his move.
Parents and teachers were watching over the games anxiously and urging the students as they played the game which one of the teachers attending said would help the young not only enjoy the sport and improve their mental capacity but it will help move them away from the fighting and wars currently going in their country.
“This is what will help them divert their attention from the bad things that are going all around them and help them get along will each other,” Yasin Omar, a teacher at the contest told Xinhua.
“We hope all the schools in Somalia would take to chess and allow their students to play this very important game that will be of benefit not only to them but to society in general,” Omar added.
This is the first time but will not be the last time, promises Wata, such contest is organized for schools in Somalia where the national education system and sport have been destroyed by two decades of civil war in the Horn of African country.