Independent South Sudan play their first match against Kenya's Tusker FC
Posted: 11 July 2011 Time: 2:07 pm
South Sudan have played their first football match since becoming an independent nation.
The first national team, which was formed just three weeks ago, played Kenyan club Tusker FC in a friendly on Sunday in their new capital city, Juba, and although they lost 3-1 they celebrated as if they had won.
A few southerners who were first team regulars for Sudan were called up, but could not get permission to leave their clubs for the match.
One player who was able to make it was James Joseph, a veteran for Goa in India, and he opened the scoring in the 10th minute.
"I felt so lucky to be able to play for my own country at last," the striker told The Guardian.
The rest of the players were all locally based, and were no real match for Tusker, conceding two own-goals, and then a third.
The South Sudan side was captained by striker 23-year-old Khamis Leiluno, who said through a translator – midfielder Justin Wani – "We are ready to tell the world that South Sudan is around.”
The team wore kit they had bought from shops, with iron-on patches reading ‘South Sudan’ on the back and the flag on the front.
The game was watched by South Sudan Minister for Sports Makuac Teny, as well as the cabinet minister and the mayors of Juba and Nairobi.
"It is a great privilege to be here to see the first match be played," Teny told AFP.
"We want to show to the world that South Sudan has joined the world of sport. If they can do this in just 21 days then I think they can go on to achieve a lot more.”
South Sudan are preparing their application to register with Fifa and CAF.
The country recently gained independence after decades of devastating conflict with northern Sudan, which claimed more than two million lives and left the south in ruins.
South Sudan's leaders hope sports will help bind the new country together. The national basketball team is due to play its first game today (Monday), against Uganda.