South Sudan's players huddle together during a FIFA women's football friendly match against Sudan at Jebel Awliaa stadium in Khartoum on February 16, 2022. Sudan's women national team was officially created in 2021, around two years following the ouster of Islamist president Omar al-Bashir whose three-decade rule saw little freedom for women. The team has since taken part in the Arab Women's Cup 2021 playing against Egypt, Tunisia and Lebanon. They also played Algeria and South Sudan. (Photo: Getty Images)



Sudan-South Sudan agreement on football development a timely move

Collaboration and better footballing relations can only lift the game in both Sudans

Sudan-South Sudan agreement on football development a timely move

Collaboration and better footballing relations can only lift the game in both Sudans

  • Sudan is a founding member of the CAF while South Sudan is among the newest nations in the world

  • Sudan’s experience in capacity building and organization will be beneficial for South Sudan

  • Qualifying for AFCON 2023 will be uppermost in the minds of both the countries

Soumitra Bose The football federations of Sudan and South Sudan have signed a historic agreement aimed at knowledge sharing and developing the game in both nations. Until 2011, they were one country but following decades of civil war, the south separated and became one of the newest countries in the world. But sport knows no boundary, and Sudan can technically call themselves the football ‘big brother’ for the fact that they were one of the four founding members of the Confederation of African Football in 1957. November 10, 2022 was a landmark day for the two Sudanese federations. An agreement to develop the game at all levels is a dream project and both countries could not have asked for a better witness than FIFA officials, who were present when the MoU was signed during the extra-ordinary assembly of the Council of East and Central African Football Associations (CECAFA) in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan.

Both federations have pledged for lifting the game. Sudan, despite their legacy, has struggled to match the best in African football while South Sudan have only just started and remain among the African nations with plenty of promise. Sudan Football Association president Dr Mutasim Jaafar said the agreement will help improve administration and organisational affairs, research and training and development of referees, among others. Augustino Maduot Parek, Jaafar's South Sudan counterpart, said the deal came at a good time when they have a lot to learn from each other. While signing agreements are fine, Sudan football has a lot to salvage. Once an African giant, the CAF founders have run hot and cold on the pitch due to various other reasons. However, there was a slice of good news in November. Sudan defeated Ethiopia 2-1 to win bronze in the Under-20 CECAFA championship at the Al Hilal Stadium in Khartoum even though they failed short of qualifying for the U-20 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) 2023 to be held in Egypt. Uganda, who defeated Sudan 2-0 in the semifinals, and South Sudan, who edged out Ethiopia on penalties, will represent CECAFA region.


Sudan players pose for a team photo at Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium on January 19, 2022 in Yaounde, Cameroon. (Photo: Getty Images)


Despite being the oldest (the federation was born in 1936) football association in Africa, Sudan have won the AFCON only once in 1970 after finishing third in its inaugural edition in 1957 and securing runners-up positions in 1959 and 1967. Then there was a long period of decline due to political instability and civil war. Sudan made a brief resurgence when they finished third in the 2011 African Nations Championship. In the 2012 AFCON, Sudan made the knockout stage for the first time after 1970, but after that Sudan were in the dumps largely due to an ageing team. The partition with South Sudan also hurt. For the lack of quality competition at the domestic stage, Sudan’s football stagnated. Some revival was seen in 2018 and 2021, when Sudan qualified for the African Nations Championship and the AFCON, respectively, under French coach Hubert Velud. A 1-0 win against Libya in the 2021 FIFA Arab Cup qualifiers gave more hope, but only just. The 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers were a disaster as Sudan were the first team to be eliminated. And Sudan have never played a World Cup despite their legacy in African football. Critics see the split with South Sudan as a factor for the poor state of affairs in (north) Sudan. Many see South Sudan as a more prospective nation since the oil reserves are there, and that fact gives the notion that the pursuit of football development is higher. Collaboration and better footballing relations can only lift the game in both Sudans. Thus, the November 10 agreement has a lot of potentials if executed in letter and spirit.


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