MOGADISHU, Somalia – Colleagues of a young Somali soccer player killed in a suicide bombing remembered him as an energetic player who endured many challenges to play the sport he loved in a country torn apart by war.
Abdi Salaan Mohamed Ali, an under-20 international player, was killed Monday when a suicide bomber detonated an explosives-laden car at a police station in the Somali capital. At least eight people were killed and 35 were wounded. Two of Ali's teammates, Mahmoud Amin Mohamed and Siid Ali Mohamed Xiis, were wounded in the blast.
The country's most dangerous militant group, al-Shabab, claimed responsibility.
Ali was a member of the Dakadaha championship team based in Somalia's capital. He is survived by his pregnant wife.
"His death saddened all of us. He was a young, energetic and skillful player," team secretary Abdullahi Bashir Nur told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
Ali, a midfielder, had become a key player in the team's starting lineup and was well-liked, Nur said.
"Everyone will remember him for his courtesy and intelligence," he said.
Somalia has been at war for all of Ali's short life. The Horn of Africa nation has not had a functioning government since clan-based warlords toppled dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991 and then turned on each other, sinking the country into chaos.
The capital, Mogadishu, has been the epicenter of the country's two decades of violence.
Islamist militants have banned the sport as being un-Islamic and turned local soccer fields into their bases. Many players have fled the country.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter on Tuesday offered his condolences to Somali football federation President Said Mahmoud Nur on behalf of FIFA "with a sad heart ... having learned of the tragedy."
Blatter and Nur are scheduled to attend the annual African football congress on Wednesday in Khartoum, Sudan.
Somalia's government called the assault "a cowardly act" carried out by hardliners. Islamist insurgent groups have used suicide bombers in the past in an attempt to bring down the fragile government, which is supported by 8,000 African Union peacekeepers.