Somali Port City

Barawa is a port city in Somalia, home to the Bravanese people. It’s on the south coast of Somalia, slightly south of the capital Mogadishu, perfectly placed as a stopping point for European and Asian traders who were on their way around Africa before the completion of the Suez Canal. It has a population of just over 30,000 people.

The Bravanese are an ethnic minority in Somalia, who have formed a distinct cultural identity. Unlike most of the rest of the population of Somalia, they speak a dialect of Swahili, Chiimwini, as their first or second language owing to previous rule by the Swahili kingdoms in Kenya and Tanzania. They can trace their ancestry back to regions all around the globe such as Oman, Portugal, Persia and Yemen, as many traders and sailors inter-married with the locals, or stopped on their way east or west and did what sailors do best.

The city was named Barawa after the Bravanese people who lived there – however in modern day Barawa, the Bravanese are a minority group as most of the population are from the Tunni clan, who speak a dialect of Somali.

Rich History

Historically, the city was well placed to serve traders moving between Asia and Europe, who would have to travel around the whole continent of Africa before the Suez Canal was built connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea. Barawa was a rich, profitable city, which bought the powers of Europe sniffing during the Colonial Age. Barawa became a tributary to the Portuguese in the early 16th century, and when the tribute stopped being paid in 1507, the Portuguese sent an armada to the east coast of Africa to go and get it.

Tristao da Cuñha, looking handsome

The armada found Barawa defended by 6,000 men with a small wall. The Portuguese only had about 1,000 men lead by Tristão da Cunha, but were able to come ashore and breach the defences. They sacked the city and burned it to the ground before turning their eyes on Mogadishu, the richest city in Africa at the time. Many of the Bravanese defenders had fled to the inland hills when their wall was breached and the city was quickly rebuilt by those who returned.

Civil War

Since 1986, Somalia has been embroiled in a civil war that has seen the government fighting different armed groups. Between 2009 and 2014, Barawa was occupied by Al-Shabaab militants – a group with links to Al-Qaeda. Although the city is under government control again now, it’s still not a very safe place to be hosting a World Cup.

In April 2018, a bomb was buried under a football stadium in Barawa before a match was played and detonated during play. Five people were killed and dozens more wounded. Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack.

Capture of Barawa
The re-capture of Barawa, October 2014

World Cup Hosts

The Barawa FA was founded in 2016 to represent Bravanese and wider Somali diaspora living in Britain with their aim: “to unite, empower and spread the culture of Somali Bravanese people through football”. They will be the hosts of the 2018 ConIFA World Cup – however, the physical hosting will take place in London, because of the dangers of hosting in Somalia.

Somalis have been coming to Britain for more than 100 years, often as sailors working on ships and more recently as refugees fleeing the violence. They are now one of the biggest ethnic minorities in Britain with roughly 100,000 Somali-born people living in Britain today.

Since the team’s foundation, they’ve played a handful of games with mixed results. They took part in the 2016 World Unity Cup and lost both their group games – against Tamil Eelam and perennial underdogs the Chagos Islands. The bookies have them down as third favourites for the tournament in London which seems a tad optimistic, but perhaps with home advantage and a strong support base, Bravanese success in this tournament would be less surprising than that time Leicester City did that thing.

 

Click here for another interesting article about Barawa.