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عربي

Football knows no foreigners

Hassan Faroog
Few of the unresolved issues stemming from the breakup of Africa’s largest country in July 2011 find a channel to be resolved. Football shows that the north-south divide has no place in sports and in people’s hearts.
18.07.2012  |  Khartoum
Signature ceremony of Atir Thomas’ transfer to al-Ahly al-Khartoum Club at the offices of the Football Association June 6, in Khartoum. Atir is the first player under contract in Sudan.
Signature ceremony of Atir Thomas’ transfer to al-Ahly al-Khartoum Club at the offices of the Football Association June 6, in Khartoum. Atir is the first player under contract in Sudan.

One Saturday in early May 2012, Sudan’s national youth football team played an important and tough match against Tanzania. At that game, the goalkeeper was Kor Albino, who also plays for one of the first division teams in Khartoum. Yet Albino is from South Sudan. And since April he has been a foreigner, someone who should not be playing with any national Sudanese teams.

Initially, the presence of this player might have seemed strange; it might have caused some awkward questions for Sudanese football officials. But the weird thing was that Albino played the match and nothing came of it; no one in the media even seemed bothered.

So I went a step further. I asked an official from the team what it meant that this player, apparently from South Sudan, was with the Sudanese team. The official responded angrily, saying: The player has a Sudanese passport so he is still Sudanese and he can play.” Then, after he had calmed down, the official stressed that the team didn’t believe that the political reality imposed upon them was all that mattered.  

The case of Kor Albino is similar to that of all the southern footballers playing in the Sudanese league, who are vital to their teams. Richard Justin Lado, a star of the Khartoum football premier league club, has been Man of the Match many times as has Jomea Jinaro, goalkeeper for the al-Hilal Omdurman team, another premier league team that is also very popular. During a recent match, the sports commentator was busy praising Jinaro’s performance; again all of this happened without any fuss in any other media.  
 
I believe these sporting incidents are real indicators that the South and the southern people remain in the hearts of many of their northern brothers. These examples prove that the policies which divided the country have a negligible effect on what is actually happening in Sudanese society. In this instance, the term foreigner” has no place in the people’s dictionary.