Today’s Opponents – Barawa
Although a number of clubs in London and the surrounding areas will be the venues for the CONIFA World Football Cup matches this summer the official hosts of the tournament is Barawa.
Where is Barawa?
Barawa – also known as Barawe and Brava – is a port town in the Lower Shebelle region of Somalia and the capital of the southwestern state. Due to almost uninterrupted conflict and upheaval since the collapse of the central government in 1991 the football team are drawn from the Somali diaspora in the UK – although they are looking to recruit more players from around the world and from back home in Barawa.
With a population of around 33,000 the town of Barawa has traditionally been home to the Bravanese clan as well as those from the Tunni clan – each with their own distinct cultures and languages. Minority groups such as these face almost daily persecution in Somalia and one of the main aims of the representative football side is to create awareness of their culture around the world.
The Barawa region of Somalia has been fought over for centuries, being part of the Ajuran Empire before being invaded by the Portuguese in the early 1500s. Later it was ruled by the Geledi Sultanate before being ceded to Italy at the beginning of the 20th century. Al-Shabaab militants seized control of the region in 2009 but were finally beaten back by Somali forces in 2014.
Barawa applied to become a member of CONIFA in July 2016 and have played a number of friendlies and competitive matches since that time. But one of their biggest successes has been the formation of a 10-team football league back in southern Somalia where, with the help of CONIFA and the FA, they have been able to make a real difference. The football team are actively involved in helping the development of the game in the region and see the publicity gained by being hosts of the 2018 CONIFA World Football Cup as a huge boost to that aim.
As of the turn of the year Barawa are 11th in the CONIFA world rankings so may find it tough in the summer’s competition. With a stated aim to “not to be embarrassed by other teams” the players and officials seem realistic about their chances but recent results have been promising and if they can navigate their way out of a difficult group they may well cause a few surprises.
Barawa played their first official match on Sunday 7th August 2016 against Cricklewood Wanderers. Despite scoring in their inaugural fixture they lost 5-1 to the Middlesex County Premier League side.
They followed that up with their first taste of international competition when they participated in the World Unity Cup. A 5-0 defeat to Tamil Eelam was followed up by a much closer 3-2 reverse against the Chagos Islands, but the Barawa later recorded their first ever victory with a 3-2 victory over a UK Tamil XI side.
With the CONIFA World Football Cup coming up at the end of the month Barawa have organised a number of pre-tournament friendlies this year with mixed results. A 0-0 draw to YouTube favourites Hashtag United in February was followed up at the start of April with another match against the Chagos Islands where they showed how much they had improved with an impressive 4-1 win.
Barawa’s most recent fixture came last month against CONIFA’s newest member Yorkshire, who were playing in their first ever match. Although Barawa got the game back to 2-2 after going two goals down, they eventually lost 7-2 – although the score line didn’t reflect the performance of both sides by all accounts.
Tragic events just prior to the Yorkshire match, where five people died and eight were wounded when a bomb was exploded at a football stadium in Barawa, just go to remind everyone of the stability of the region but the football side will be doing everything they can this summer to raise awareness while attempting to go as far as they can in the CONIFA World Football Cup.
Barawa have been grouped with Tamil Eelam, Cascadia and Ellan Vannin and know that they will have a fight on their hands to progress. Ellan Vannin in particular is a historically strong CONIFA side but Cascadia is yet to have played a competitive match so there is all to play for.
Surrey, playing in their first ever game, is another unknown quality for the Barawa side but it is sure to be a fascinating match for all involved.