AL Qaeda and Al Shabab represent two sides of militant Islam’s love-hate relationship with ball games. Soccer doesn’t fit into Al Shabab or, for that matter, the Taliban’s vision of an Islamist society. Soccer distracts the faithful from worshipping Allah, competes with the militants for recruits and lends credence to national borders at the expense of pan-Islamist aspirations for the return of the Caliph who would rule the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims as one. It also celebrates peaceful competition and undermines the narrative of an inevitable clash of civilizations between Islam and the West.
"The world knows that Somalia has undergone hardships. When our women play internationally, it is great publicity for the whole country and, in particular, for the basketball federation," Mr Ali said.
James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University and the author of the blog, The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer.