Biersmith, a Bradley University alum, returned to Peoria with Sa’ad and Saadiq in May for a private screening of Men in the Arena. Afterward, its main subjects took part in a Q&A session.
Why did you agree to be in the film?
Saadiq: It was very hard for us… [But] we had goals, and we had stories to tell. I always wanted to tell my story to people—to kids and the next generation—so the world can see what we have been through, so people can learn what was going on in Somalia… Our biggest worry was to talk about Al-Shabaab. To talk about terrorism and politics while you’re still in Africa? You [just] can’t… It’s not free; it’s not like here. So we slept in fear about a lot of stuff.
Do you want to continue to play professionally?
Saadiq: Right now, the most important thing is to get an education, and if things change, I may go professional. But my biggest thing now, and all I think about, is school. It’s a lot more important for me now than playing soccer.
Sa’ad, after being beaten badly by Al-Shabaab as punishment for playing football, why did you decide to play again?
*Sa’ad: I wanted to show people we can never give up. I wanted to set a good example to the kids in the village.
What do you want to study to become?
Saadiq: When I was young, I didn’t have toys to play with… I used to make small cars from sticks, and I felt like I was good at it. I think all I dreamed about was to be an engineer. You never know what will be the next step… in life, but I will try hard.
Will you ever return to Somalia?
Saadiq: It’s so hard to go back now. Maybe if change happens in Somalia. I went back in 2013, and my mom was like, ‘I don’t want to see you. Why did you come back?’ I didn’t tell them I was coming back. I was hiding. I stayed five days, and it was really hard. Between this movie and the popularity we have back home, I don’t want to risk my life again.
What’s it like being away from your family?
*Sa’ad: I would do anything to have my mother here, sitting at this table across from me (points to empty chair). I wish it every day. a&s
*Sa’ad’s replies were translated into English by Saadiq.