The inter-regional all girls basketball tournament came to an end on Monday with the team from Banadir being crowned the champions. They defeated Hirshablle with the final score of 66-46.
The tournament, the first of its kind in Somalia, was held in Garowe to much fanfare as thousands of fans packed the stadium to watch Banadir take on Hirshabelle. It fielded teams from all over Somalia including Galmudug, Jubbaland, Hirshablle, Puntland and the capital.
The tournament came under intense scrutiny by the Somali Religous Council who issued a statement against women playing in the tournament.
“We warn that the women basketball violates the Islamic law, culture and its values, and it is a place where women can be easily corrupted,” SRC chairman Sheikh Bashir Ahmed Salat told VOA Somali. “Women should know that they are susceptible to the enemy of Islam, and that youth in particular is the target for those who want to change your Islamic values,” he said.
Those claims were rebuffed by The Governor of Nugal, Omar Abdullahi Osman (Faraweyne), who said the games was an excellent way for Somali athletes to showcase their talents. He also pointed out that many Islamic countries encourage their female citizens to participate in athletics; noting Egypt, Qatar and ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia’s participation in sporting games.
The tournament highlighted the rise of women’s basketball in Somalia; already a popular sport for Somali women in the diaspora. The idea for holding grassroots tournaments like the inter-regional games in Garowe is to encourage health and fitness for young Somali girls and also hope to inspire a new generation of Somali girls to reach the heights of Farhiya Abdi, a Swedish-born Somali professional WNBA player with the Los Angeles Sparks.
At home, Somalia is already seeing early success in women’s basketball with a big showing in the 2011 Arab Games. The Somali National team came in as the underdogs in the tournament and mounted surprising a win against the host country Qatar and also defeated Kuwait .