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Page last updated at 15:29 GMT, Friday, 21 January 2011

Coach says football can bring peace to Sudan

By Kennedy Gondwe
BBC Sport, Lusaka

Sudan coach Mohamed Abdalla Ahmed
Whenever we play in southern Sudan, you see all the people gather to cheer the national team - football is always seeking peace

Sudan coach Mohamed Abdalla Ahmed

Sudan coach Mohamed Abdalla Ahmed is hoping football can help keep the peace after the referendum that is set to lead to the break-up of the country.

For many years, the nation's mainly Muslim north has fought the south, where most are Christian or follow traditional religions.

With most votes counted, 99% of people have opted for independence from the north, referendum officials say.

"Football is going to play a part in uniting the people," said Ahmed.

The coach also said that he expects any formation of a new nation to have little effect on the current Sudanese national side.

Since the south has no teams in the country's top league, no players from that region turn out for the Nile Crocodiles.

"The Sudan team will continue as it is only composed of players from the northern part of the country, but maybe there will be new FA elections and perhaps a new federation in the south," added Ahmed.

While southern Sudanese have been voting to decide whether the north and south should officially separate, the country has also been gearing up to host next month's African Nations Championship (Chan).

But coach Ahmed, whose side is preparing in Zambia, is hoping football can unify Sudan as locals await the referendum's results.

"Yes, for sure," he told BBC Sport on arrival at the Lusaka International Airport on Friday.

"Whenever we play or take a team to southern Sudan, you see that all the people gather to cheer the national team.

"Football is always seeking peace. Although the referendum is something that has already happened, we are hoping to be good neighbours."

Early results from Southern Sudan's referendum indicate the region has voted overwhelmingly to split from the north and form a new country.

And Ahmed hopes football can maintain a degree of unity should the country eventually break into two later this year.

"For instance, we have four members of the national association that come from southern Sudan," Ahmed explained.

"Maybe there will be a new election at FA level if a new country is formed [but] I don't know."

Ahmed, whose team faces Gabon, Uganda and Algeria in Group A of the Chan, was further confident his side will do well in the competition that starts on 4 February.

"My players have the ambition to go all the way," he said.

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see also
South Sudan 'heading for split'
21 Jan 11 |  Africa
UN praises south Sudan referendum
19 Jan 11 |  Africa
CHAN 2011 results and fixtures
18 Jan 11 |  African
Sudan country profile
08 Jul 11 |  Country profiles

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