KHARTOUM, SUDAN—The host city of the 2006 Developing Nations Football Championship erupted in cheers that nearly drowned out the cries of the starving and wounded Tuesday when the underdog Somali side, playing four down due to injuries and landmines, outlasted the more experienced if disease-ridden Rwandans 1-0 to win the inaugural Third-World Cup.
"This is a relatively great day for Somalia," said team captain Omar Bin-Shakur, the seasoned veteran whose rise from squalor in the violent ghettoes of Mogadishu to stardom in the squalid and violent ghettoes of the Sudan is already passing into legend. "It seemed like nothing could stop us in the title match—not the great Rwandan defender Bimenyimana, not the mortar strikes, not the rotting cow in midfield, not dysentery nothing."
"They were simply the better team today," Rwandan star Calvin Bimenyimana said, speaking to reporters as the soccer stadium was transformed from a football pitch back to its usual function as an outdoor prison for Darfur refugees awaiting execution. "Yet I am extremely proud of my mates. They did well just to get here, especially after the Sierra Leone match in which Nicodemus was red-carded and shot, and our epic battle with Chad, in which they came at us with rocket-propelled grenades when our team bus attempted to cross the border into the Sudan."
Bimenyimana, whose youth coaches in Rwanda considered him a natural for the sport after his hands were chopped off with machetes in 1994, was chosen as the Nestlé Man Of The Match by fans, the first-ever Third-World Cup participant from the losing side to be chosen. However, some aficionados say that Bimenyimana played a lackluster game; at press time, FIFA-3 officials were investigating reports that armed gunmen had shot and killed hundreds at designated Nestlé Man Of The Match voting stations.
Somalia was only a fifth seed entering the Cup tournament, and while the Third-World Cup rankings are considered notoriously inaccurate, the nation's weak midfield, inexperienced goalkeeper, and devastatingly low rates of economic growth and standards of press freedom seemed to indicate that they would be eliminated in the early rounds.
"Certainly it did not look good for us going in to be placed with Afghanistan, host team Sudan, and the [Democratic Republic Of The] Congo," said Somali coach Abdi Qani. "But every other team was at the mercy of the same sporting and economic factors. In the Third-World Cup, every group is the Group Of Death."
After only surviving the first round due to inspired play, UN-supplied antibiotics, and a forfeit during the Sudan game when four Sudanese players seized control of their team and shot eight others during penalty time, Somalia assumed the unexpected status of the tournament's Team Of Destiny.
"Never have the words 'win or go home' provided such inspiration to any team," Bin-Shakur said. "I am overcome with joy, as well as hunger, and I look forward to bringing the Third-World Cup trophy home to my country."
The Third-World Cup trophy, an AK-47 coated with gold spray-paint and mounted on a pallet of United Nations staple foods, has already been seized by Somali troops and distributed amongst ranking military officers.