OpEd, Sports

Renewing South Sudan image through sports

By Esther Lohutuhureng


Wikipedia defines sports as any form of physical activity or game, often competitive and organized that aims to use, maintain, and improve physical ability and skills while providing enjoyment to participants and, in some cases, entertainment to spectators.

In certain sports, such as racing, many contestants may compete simultaneously, though, or consecutively with one winner, in others; the contest is between two sides, each attempting to exceed the other.

Studies have shown that regular physical activity helps prevent and treat non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and breast and colon cancer. It also helps prevent hypertension, overweight, and obesity and can improve mental health, quality of life, and well-being.

South Sudan has remained invisible for a long time, and if someone mentions it, the first impression would be that it is very poor, faces corruption, illiteracy, insecurity, and civil war, and the list is long.

However, the good news is that the Lord has given South Sudan another chance to renew and restore her image to the world. These chances come from individuals such as Deng Luol Ajou, the president of the South Sudan Basketball Federation, who, through his continuous effort, put South Sudan on the world map. Mr. Luol left Britain to come back home in order to help his people, despite his British citizenship. He would have stayed in the UK, living a comfortable life like any other South Sudanese in the diaspora, but he heard his calling and came to fulfil his purpose in life. This has made South Sudan an icon in the basketball arena.

The recognition of South Sudan in the arena of athletes was also made when a female runner was awarded a gold medal for the first time in history at the 13th African Games, which were conducted in Accra, Ghana. The credit goes to Natalena Napule Loliha. Ms. Napule hails from Chukudum, Budi County, Eastern Equatoria State. She fled South Sudan to Kakuma Refugee Camp because of the civil war. Despite the challenges that she faced as a refugee, Napule did not give up, though the journey was not easy. Her determination was greater than the challenges that she had faced. Nevertheless, her struggle was not in vain. She was awarded a goal medal after leading the female half marathon and granting herself the chance to raise the South Sudan flag high among other nations.

This is just the beginning because in a few months, South Sudan will go to Paris to participate in the 2024 Paris Olympics basketball competition. This opportunity was available to them after they qualified for the Olympics 2024 in Manila, Philippines, in August 2023.

The reason why the country has been left behind in sports is due to corruption. Corruption is what keeps the youth from pursuing their talent. For instance, like what happened at the African Cup of Nations (AFCON), the Confederation of Africa Football (CAF) kicked South Sudan out of the under-17 Nations Cup, which was held in Algeria, over age falsification after the CAF found five players in the Bright Star Juniors had forged birth certificates.

The Bright Star Juniors would have won if only the federation had been honest and picked the most qualified players. If only they had selected players based on their performance rather than their tribe or family status, or if only they had selected the most talented players under 17 years old, they would have competed and won the trophy for the country.

The Ministry of Culture, Youth, and Sport, together with the federation, should organize a special reception for her and recognize her effort.

Sports bring people together, strengthen the spirit of brotherhood, unite the people, stimulate confidence, and attract public and media attention. The time has come for South Sudan to show the world that this country is the land of abundance, not only in oil, gas, and gold but also in human resources.

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