Ramadan soccer tournaments bring together Muslim community in Lewiston and Auburn

Mar. 31—AUBURN — Bringing the Muslim community together.

That was the message of this year's Ramadan soccer tournaments in Lewiston and Auburn, which wrapped up Saturday night at Ingersoll Turf Facility with the adult and U17 championship games.

"It means a lot to me," Salaam FC player Suleiman Iimi said. "It brings everybody together — the community, the kids — it means a lot."

That's also the meaning of Ramadan, which began on March 10 and runs through April 9.

"Ramadan means to have peace," Khalid Mohamed of Salaam FC said.

Salaam FC won the U17 championship by beating Winter Warriors 3-2 in penalty kicks. Salaam FC went to the tournament championship in the previous two tournaments, but this is the first time they won the title.

Mohamed scored two first-half goals and converted in the penalty kicks, which helped him win the U17 MVP.

Soccer is a passion among many Muslims.

"It brings the community together to play soccer," Aminn "Kobe" Adow said. "It's what we love."

Adow was the MVP of the adult tournament. He scored a hat trick in the tournament final in Dekalb Stars' 5-1 victory over the Golden Boyz. Abdi Karim had the other two goals for the Dekalb Stars. Abdi Nur scored for the Golden Boyz.

Adow said the Stars capitalized on their opportunities, but it could have gone either way.

"Everybody had a good team," Adow said. "It was fair all around. It's just who came out and played hard."

The U17 tournament became the focus of this year's event. Tournament organizers decided to forego giving out prize money to the adult champions and runners-up. Instead, with the help of sponsors, all 12 members of Salaam FC received Apple iPad minis.

"They are the backbone of the community," tournament co-organizer Mohamed Khalid said of the youth. "We were thinking about ways of supporting them. That's why I had to reach out to other organizations for support. ... A lot of (the kids) come from low-income communities, low-income homes. We were thinking: How can we support them? They are going to use them for school; they are going to use them for life. That's what it's all about."

Khalid said giving iPads out wouldn't have been possible without the support of John F. Murphy Homes, Gateway Community Services, Androscoggin Bank and Auburn-Lewiston YMCA.

Khalid said the tournament got support from the cities of Lewiston and Auburn, with both the Lewiston High School soccer field and Ingersoll Turf Facility being available to use for the tournaments, which began on March 11.

"It was a shorter tournament than usual because we had to respect the last 10 days of Ramadan," Khalid said.

It's believed the Qur'an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad through the Angel Jibrael in one of the final 10 nights of Ramadan.

Tournament co-organizer Liban Negeye said he enjoyed seeing the smiles on the kids' faces and hopes soccer can make a positive impact.

"I would rather have the youth, even the older guys, but mostly the youth to stay and play soccer, to be active instead of being involved in the streets," Negeye said. "We have had a lot of gun violence lately, so keeping them away from the streets is our main goal."

Negeye said he hopes the tournaments can inspire the youth who watched both games in the stands on Saturday night, and maybe one day they will be the stars of the tournament.

"Even the little kids, you can see them being happy and excited just being here, seeing everyone together for this amazing tournament," Negeye said. "It's beautiful."

Despite losing in the U17 championship, Winter Warriors player Nudsir Hassan enjoyed the experience.

"I wanted to have fun," Hassan said on why he wanted to play in the tournament.

Hassan had the game-tying goal with under a minute remaining in the second half to force the game to go to penalty kicks. Abdihakim "Dayow" Daud had scored earlier in the second half for the Winter Warriors.

This was Khalid's fifth year running the tournament, but he brought on Negeye this year to help run things.

Khalid and Negeye said the soccer tournament started in the mid-2000s.

However, the tournament has grown over the past two years.

"They always have been doing this," Adow said of the community doing the tournament. "It just hasn't been as big as this year and last year. That's when everybody has turned out and came together."

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