By Spy Uganda
South Sudan national football team, a young team that has been desperately struggling to mark its spot in African football and internationally, has made a colossal breakthrough in Africa’s oldest football league, CECAFA, finishing third after silencing the second most dormant team in Eastern and Central Africa, the Harambee Stars, the Kenya national football team.
South Sudan national football team advanced to semifinals for the first time in its lifespan but lost narrowly to Tanzania which has proven to be the strongest team to win CECAFA 2021 over the Burundi national team.
The Bright Stars U23 lost in the semifinals to Tanzania, which scored a late goal in the 65th minute when Kevin Naftal scored to advance the Tanzania national football team to final.
In the final, Tanzania’s Taifa Stars met an exhausted Burundi national team, nicknamed as The Swallows.
The Swallows defeated Kenya’s Harambee Stars through penalties shootout in the semifinals but couldn’t prove otherwise to the Tanzanians after a goalless draw. Burundi lost the final after 6-5 penalty scores to win themselves Silver after Tanzania walked away with Gold.
The third best team wins a bronze and that’s where Kenya and South Sudan found themselves.
Unlike the inexperienced South Sudan’s Bright Stars that never participated in major leagues and never advanced beyond quarter-finals, Kenya hosted the first CECAFA cup in 1926 against Uganda and won it that year, and since then the Harambee Stars has been a dominant factor of what began as a two-team competition but slowly expanded to host teams from East, Central and Southern Africa.
The Kenya’s U23 men soccer team boasted a great advantage over South Sudan’s Bright Stars having defeated both South Sudan and Djibouti with clean sheets totalling 5 nil in the group stage and narrowly lost to Burundi through penalties, however, the underdogs put in all their might to defeat the unbwogable Harambee Stars within the regular 90 minutes.
With both teams playing so hard to win the bronze and respect, South Sudan’s victory over Kenya did not come easy, thanks to Dani Lual who managed to score the wining goal in the 78 minutes.
South Sudan joined CECAFA for the first time in 2012, where they had their bitter taste of all times, finishing 11/12th after losing all the three group state games and scored nothing. They tried again in 2013 and yet again lost all the three group stage games; however, they managed to score two goals and finished 10/12th.
In 2015, the Bright Stars made it to Quarter-finals after winning two of their group stage games and finished sixth; however, they dropped to group stage again in 2017 and finished 9th.
The Africa’s youngest nation proves to have glaring potentials in sports; however, the teams are being built from scratch with players being drawn from as far as from Australia, Europe and the United States.
With war coupled with tribal politics and corruption, the national teams are getting their share of destruction and some managers are falling for the temptations; however, the teams are struggling to build both team spirits and resources.
Uganda is the most dominant team in CECEFA having won the league 39 times, finished second 16 times and third 15 times followed by Kenya which has won it 21 times, finished second 31 times and third 12 times.
The two countries, Kenya and Uganda, played the competition among themselves for almost two decades from 1926 to 1944 when they were joined by Tanganyika and Zanzibar, the current days Tanzania, and later by Ruanda-urundi, Zambia and Somalia.