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South Sudan's youth flourish through football

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Bright Stars National Youth Team Qualifies for U-17 AFCON 2023

South Sudan’s youth national teams qualified for the nation’s first continental football championships contributing to the development of a stronger sense of national pride across the nation.

In November, years of arduous struggle finally paid off when South Sudan defeated Ethiopia in Omdurman’s semifinal of the East African regional CECAFA U20 championship, there were joyful celebrations all around. The victory qualified them for the CAF U20 Africa Cup of Nations, their first-ever continental competition. The team couldn’t contain their excitement as they fell on the pitch and cried. In one year, South Sudan’s football had advanced significantly twice. 

The nation’s U17 team qualified for the continental championship through the regional qualifications less than a month earlier. The nation was ecstatic. Because of the U17 boys’ achievement, Joseph Loro, the team captain, stated his team was motivated to work hard. Loro, who was raised by his mother after his father was killed in the civil war, discovered his path to being a professional footballer after being spotted by coach Bilal Felix, who is currently the U17 national team’s trainer, playing in a Juba area. Loro entered the academy from where he was signed by the neighborhood club Munuki FC, who funded his costs through secondary school. Now, his family benefits financially from his salary.

Football bridges racial divisions and brings people together. People who are on the field don’t stop to think about where they come from, they are only teammates.” The South Sudanese Football Association’s president, Augustino Maduot. “This gives us reason to hope for peace and harmony. It serves as a means of breaking down all the things that have divided our society.

Football and other cultural activities in the country were stunted as a result of the years of fighting. But despite the need for new infrastructure, South Sudan has gradually made significant strides since the signing of a peace agreement in 2020. The focus of Maduot’s efforts has been grassroots and youth football, the advancement of women’s football, and technical instruction for coaches and other officials. The nation also requires more infrastructure, such as the high-quality fields needed for the expansion of football.

But the loss of infrastructure is not solely a result of the war. Chobur Goc, a former president of the SSFA, received a ten-year football ban from FIFA for enriching himself with grants from the organization worth $497,000 (€539,000) in 2019.

Football talent is abundant among South Sudanese. Four of its expatriates participated in the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup. Because their families had left the country during the independence struggle with Sudan, Garang Kuol, Awer Mabil, and Thomas Deng were members of the Australian team. Denis Zakaria, a midfielder for Chelsea whose father is from South Sudan, was a part of the Swiss team.

South Sudanese are well known for their tenacity and footballing prowess. We are talented. We must provide these children with the chance, “Added Maduot. In order to develop a senior team that can finally compete in the Africa Cup of Nations and the World Cup, Maduot believes that the development of the youth teams will be preserved.

 In February, Loro wants to take the team to the U20 AFCON in Egypt. 


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