She Fled Somalia’s Devastating Civil War. Now She Wants To Be Its First Ever Olympic Boxer


It’s the second day of Ramadan, and Ramla Ali is wrapping her hands at a boxing gym in London’s East End. It’s now midafternoon, and as a practicing Muslim, Ali hasn’t had any food or drink since before dawn. “I’m still training,” the featherweight says as she gets ready for a workout. “Which is obviously really hard.”

The first Muslim woman to win an English boxing title, Ali has her sights set on the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. There, should she qualify, she will become the first boxer of any gender to represent her country of birth, Somalia, which sent only two athletes to the 2016 Rio Games.

Her path here hasn’t been easy. When she was a child during the Somali civil war in the early 1990s, her family fled their Mogadishu home after her older brother was killed by a stray grenade. They escaped the country via a perilous boat journey to Kenya, and eventually ended up in London.

At school, Ali was bullied for being overweight, until she discovered boxing in her teens. Even after she started fighting competitively, she hid her passion from her family, worried her mother would think it was immodest. “I knew she would never be supportive,” Ali says. The day she won the English title in 2016, she told her family she was going for a run.

As Ali’s profile increased, her mother eventually found out and asked her to stop—which she did, if only temporarily. “I understood, because she grew up in a different era to me,” Ali says. “But there was resentment at the same time. How can you not understand that this is what I love?”

Eighteen months ago, an uncle in Mogadishu eventually helped reassure Ali’s mother that the community was happy, not ashamed. By then, Ali had made the decision to represent Somalia, rather than the U.K., at the international level. “He called me up and told me he was really proud of me,” she says. “I’d never had a senior family member say that.”

Now, Ali’s mother is her biggest fan, though she has still never been to see her fight in person. That might soon change. In May, after Ali returned from a tournament in Botswana, her mother made her a promise. “She said, ‘If you get to Tokyo, I’ll book my ticket and I’ll see you there.’”


When she’s not traveling around the world for competitions, Ali runs free weekly self-defense classes for women in South London. The sessions are particularly popular with Muslim women who want to learn to protect themselves in a women-friendly environment.

As a refugee whose adoptive country gave her so many opportunities, Ali is equally aware that African boxers who train in their home nations aren’t adequately represented at the top flight of boxing. That’s why she’s raising funds to bring the Botswana boxing team, who welcomed her on her recent trip, to the U.K. for a week of training ahead of the All Africa Games. “The thing that sets them apart from other countries is not their skill,” she says. “It’s just the fact that they don’t have the same opportunities.”

Ali hopes others will be inspired not to give up on sports. “Don’t be deterred just because someone told you it’s not what a girl should do,” she says. “Just do what makes you happy.”


May 16, 2019

Somalia Closer To Finals Of African Boxing Championship

Somalia is one step closer to the finals of the African Boxing Championship zone 3 which is currently under way in Libreville, the capital of Gabon.

Somalian boxers Rashid Omar, 64kg and Adan Mohamed 75kg are now through to the semi-finals of the competition after beating their rivals from Burundi and Algeria in big fights on Monday.


Somali Boxing Federation, General Secretary Abdirahman Ali Mire, who is accompanying the team said that the Somali flag carriers are now preparing for their semi-final clashes schedule for Wednesday 15th of May.

Rashid Omar who competes for Somalia will fight his Cameroonian counterpart, Mengue Ayissi, while Adan Mohamed (Somalia) will take on Ndayize Jean (Burundi)

“Somali Boxing returned to the world platform only early last year after decades of absence and in this war-weary nation, we are still financially unstable,” he adds “thanks to the National Olympic Committee of Somalia for its commitment to the game” Somali Boxing Federation, General Secretary Abdirahman Ali Mire.

The boxing sport was axed in Somalia in 1976 when the then dictator Mohamed Siyad Barre banned the game and named it “unwanted” sport after a fighter was knocked down and vomited during a game.

That was the first boxing competition in more than three decades, with young fighters in the conflict-torn nation dreaming of a career in international rings.

In 1991 when war broke out in the country’s capital, Mogadishu all sorts of sports were suspended and athletics fled the country escaping endless fight. Until today many Somali athletes compete internationally for adopted nations.

In September 2018, Somalia hold its first boxing competition since 1991 with with young fighters in the capital.

Former Welsh boxing champion appointed Somali Boxing Federation technical director

Somalia has appointed the 1997 Welsh senior boxing champion, Mr. Hassan Essa, as the technical development director for Somali Boxing Federation.

The appointment of Mr. Essa comes as Somalia recently returned to the international boxing platform, after decades of absence from the world’s boxing gatherings.

Born in Cardiff, the British citizen of Somali origin has a top level boxing background and since 2012 he held several positions at the GRANGE CATHOLIC AMETUER BOXING CLUB ranging from coach to the club’s chairman.

Somali boxing federation general secretary Abdirahman Ali Mire said in a statement that Mr. Hassan Essa, has enough experience to serve as the technical development director for Somali Boxing Federation.

“Mr. Hassan Essa is the right person for this very crucial position. Somalia will benefit from his experience and competence and I am confident that he will be able to assist Somalia to play a dominant role in the international boxing” Somali boxing federation general secretary Abdirahman Ali Mire said in his statement on Monday.

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On his side, Somali Boxing Federation’s newly appointed technical development director, Mr. Hassan Essa, said he is happy to play a greater role in the promotion of Boxing in Somalia after the boxing game was revived in Somalia this year.

“I have been involved in boxing since I was a child, and I am happy to help my country of origin culminate in a top position in the world boxing” Mr. Essa, said after his appointment.

Mr. Hassan Essa, was crowned Welsh Junior boxing champion in 1986, while in 1997 he became Welsh senior boxing champion.  He represented Welsh National Boxing team from 1987 to 1989.

Boing was once a well-known sport in Somalia, before it was axed by the former military ruler General Mohamed Siyad Barre in 1976 and named it an “unwanted” sport when a boxer vomited after he was knocked down during a game.

After the federation was revived early this year, Somalia has been able to compete in international boxing competitions. More recently Somalia was represented in the XXXII International elite men and elite women “Ahmed Comert” Boxing tournament which took place in Istanbul from 10th– to 16th September 2018. Aden Mohamed and Ramla Saed represented Somalia in the big event, while Ramla once again represented Somalia in the AIBA Women’s World Boxing Championship 2018 which was hosted in New Delhi from 15th to 24th November. However, the newly appointed technical development director is hopeful that soon Somalia will have a big number of boxers in international competitions. “My expectation is high and I am looking forward to the Tokyo 2020” Mr. Hassan Essa, said.

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By Shafi’i Mohyaddin Abokar

Boxer who is aiming to be the first to represent Somalia in the next Olympics

In March this year coach Richard Moore and Somali boxer Ramla Ali travelled to Denmark where Ramla competed in the Hvidovre Box Cup. After boxing a strong Swedish opponent in her first bout and winning unanimously she met a very experienced Danish girl called Bettina Dahl in the final. Ramla came through her final victorious to win Gold. Ramla_Ali_Denmark_Tournament_6

Shortly after the tournament in Denmark Ramla Ali was invited to the Gold Coast, Australia as a training partner to Valerian Spicer (Team Dominica) who was competing in the Commonwealth Games 2018. Ramla took this opportunity to spar with some of the country’s no 1 ranked 57kgs boxers whilst she was there including elite females from Dominica, Cameroon, Botswana & Barbados. 

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After a long training camp, Ramla Ali and her coach travelled to Benshiem Germany in June to compete in the Sparkasse Open tournament. Again Ramla won her first bout unanimously against a Swiss boxer and went on to meet the no 2 ranked German at 57kg in the final. A very tough bout against an experienced southpaw resulting in victory and Ramla winning Gold. 


Somali NOC contributes documents to the creation of IOC’s Management library

Somali NOC Logo

Somalia is having problems of insecurity, but the good governance of its Olympic Committee has led the country to be able to contribute to the creation of IOC’s management library.

The International Olympic Committee showed its full satisfaction with the 2017 activity report and the 2017-2020 strategic plan of Somali National Olympic Committee and as a result asked the country to contribute its useful documents to the creation of the Olympic management library which will be available for all NOCS around the world by April 2018.

IOC praised Somalia for greatly strengthening its management capacities. The governing body of the world’s sports has seen Somalia’s 2017-2020 strategic plan, 2018 action plan, 2017 activity report and as well as the country’s financial policy as very fascinating.

“Somali NOC has agreed to contribute to the knowledge-sharing platform after a request from the IOC. It is our pleasure that our work will be helpful for the creation of the Olympic Library” a statement from Somali NOC’s general secretariat office said on Thursday.

“Somalia contributed to the creation of the Olympic management library. It is a knowledge-sharing platform and I am sure that some NOCS will benefit from our experience and in return we will benefit more from others” the statement added.

In 2017 Somali NOC accomplished some unprecedented activities including more capacity building workshops and sporting programs throughout the country, as part of Somali NOC’s efforts to spread sport in a country where the sport has already been the biggest peace building and public integration tool.
By Shafi’i Mohyaddin Abokar