Taekwondo gaining popularity among Somali youth
It was a Sunday afternoon, a group of about 30 trainees were throwing jabs into the air as they learnt the Japanese style of defense, taekwondo.
Ahmed Mohamed Hajji is the director who learned the skill in Ethiopia after fleeing the war-torn Somalia.
“When I came back after being in Ethiopia for some years, I decided that it would be a good idea to introduce taekwondo to the youth in Mogadishu,” Hajji told Xinhua Sunday.
Hajji said starting the training was not an easy task as financial resources were difficult to find and Somalis were not familiar with the sport.
“At first I found it hard to convince the youth to join the training even though I was offering it for free. But after some time, they started coming along. Many young people are now interested in joining the training,” Hajji recalled the first days of his training career.
For Hajji, the acceptability of the game in Somali is not only an issue of money, but also the conservative nature of the Somali community meaning few women would be interested in his training.
“I now have one lady who broke the tradition to attend the trainings. I hope more ladies will develop interests in taekwondo, ” said Hajji.
Ugbad Hassan, the only lady among 29 men, said she is confident she can do well and be a role model to her female colleagues who view taekwondo as a male-only game.
“I am the only girl taking this training and many people have not been happy about my plan to learn taekwondo. I am lucky that my family has been supportive of my ambition to be a professional taekwondo player,” said the lady player.
Sadaq Ifrah, 18, said he has been following the trainings for the last five months and is excited to further enhance his expertise on the game.
“I first joined the taekwondo class out of curiosity but have developed a lot of interests ever since. I hope one day I would be in a position to compete at professional level when taekwondo become a professional sport in Somalia,” Ifrah narrated his dream about taekwondo.
Isaaq Abdi, another player whose passion for the game was motivated by stories from friends who had joined the class. “I got information from a friend that there were taekwondo classes going on and I decided to attend. With time I was able to learn and enjoy the game.” Abdi said.
Hajji, who is offering the classes for free hopes to get support in the future.
“I hope our government will one day consider supporting me so that we can build and elevate the status of taekwondo in Somalia. This is a professional sport, which can give our youth a chance to even compete at international level,” said the director.
Sports like taekwondo could help the devastated Somalia to recover as they engage young people in constructive activities, which prevent them from falling into crimes or even terrorist activities, as some analysts note.