Sport

South Sudan becomes world's newest soccer nation

Gerald Imray

South Sudan was admitted as a member of the Confederation of African Football, with a strong possibility of also joining Fifa in May.

South Sudan was admitted as a member of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) on Friday, becoming the world’s newest soccer nation.

Africa’s football body accepted the application by the South Sudan Football Association (SSFA) to become its 54th member, meaning South Sudan is now recognised as an international team.

South Sudan gained independence in April 2011.

In the presence of Fifa President Sepp Blatter and his CAF counterpart Issa Hayatou, a delegation from the SSFA was presented with a CAF flag to fly at their headquarters in Juba.

Delegates at CAF’s General Assembly meeting in Libreville then stood for the world’s newest country’s national anthem.

“We are proud to have you as a member and now we would like to see you in our tournaments,” Hayatou said. “We are delighted to have you.”

The country could also become a member of Fifa at the world soccer body’s congress in Budapest, Hungary in May.

‘Significant’
Later, speaking to reporters, Blatter said South Sudan joining Africa’s football body was “a small thing but quite significant”.

The South Sudanese delegation, which included federation president Oliver Benjamin and the country’s minister of sport, also handed over South Sudan’s national flag, which will now join the 53 others that CAF flies at its official gatherings and events.

“Greetings and thanks to all of you from the football fans of South Sudan,” Benjamin said.

The young federation’s first president then told AP that before his new country could think about trying to qualify for tournaments, or even playing in a first full international match, it needed basic essentials.

“We are a country that has just come out of war,” Benjamin said. “We would love to have an Olympic stadium in our capital ... but above all we lack even the balls and the T-shirts. We don’t have those things in our country.

“Some of our player use their socks, put clothes in them, wrap them up and play with it. That is our love of football.”

Benjamin also said the national team was urgently looking for a coach.

“A professional one,” he added. “We need all these professional things. We must build it [South Sudan soccer] on a solid foundation.”—AP

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