OpEd, Politics

South Sudan Makes History: Secures Olympic Qualification

By Anna Akuch Maker

Born from the ashes of struggle and resilience, South Sudan has achieved a historic milestone that has left its citizens beaming with pride. The South Sudan Basketball team, affectionately known as the Bright Stars, has etched its name in the annals of history by securing a spot in the upcoming Paris Olympics after an awe-inspiring journey.

Over a decade since South Sudan’s declaration of sovereignty, this achievement symbolizes a triumph of spirit, determination, and unity. The journey towards international recognition began three years ago when these aspiring athletes set their sights on a seemingly audacious dream – to place our young nation on the global sports map. The path was rugged, but their resolve was unwavering.

Like their predecessors who fought for independence, the Bright Stars represent today’s champions. Their journey has been bolstered by the steadfast support of President Salva Kiir Mayardit, whose leadership has inspired the nation’s youth, guiding them toward their aspirations. Vice President Rebecca Nyandeng Demabior and Senior Presidential Advisor Hon Kuol Manyang Juuk ignited a fire within the team during their inaugural match against Puerto Rico with impassioned speeches. They reminded the players that their mission continues the sacrifices made during the struggle for independence.

The jubilation was palpable when the Bright Stars secured their first victory against China with an impressive score of 89-69. Social media erupted in celebration, and fans gathered on basketball courts nationwide to witness the historic moment. A South Sudanese even penned an anthem, “Rising Warriors: Hoops of South Sudan” by James Kot, in tribute to the team.

Our young and talented team defied the odds, fearlessly taking on formidable opponents and demonstrating unity and determination. Majok Deng, aptly nicknamed “Juba Airlines,” left a trail of awe and inspiration on the court. Carlik Jones was named the man of the match during their fierce encounter with Puerto Rico, scoring 35 of the 96 points the South Sudan Basketball team achieved in that game. His performance embodied the unyielding spirit of our people.

Credit is also due to those who nurtured these talents. Minister of Youth and Sports, Hon. Dr. Albino Bol Dhieu, and President of South Sudan Basketball Federation, Luol Deng, played instrumental roles in honing our players for the international stage. The bond between the team and their dedicated coach Royal Ivey has fortified their determination.

While the tournament may have concluded with a loss in the final game, it’s merely a steppingstone in their ongoing odyssey. As we revel in the pride and glory this team has brought to our nation, let this be a call to action for every household to nurture the young talents among us. Together, we can ensure that future basketball competitions witness the flight of trophies into our beloved South Sudan.

This journey has only just begun. With each stride, each bounce of the ball, we inch closer to a future where South Sudan stands tall on the global stage. Let this triumph serve as a testament to our spirit’s strength, our people’s resilience, and the unquenchable flame of hope that burns within us all.

The writer is a journalist and can be reached on annmaker91@gmail.com

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