Supporters applaud South Sudan’s basketball team despite losing.

Deng Makuc, a devoted supporter, expressed his disappointment and pride as the final whistle blew, announcing South Sudan’s defeat by Serbia and their elimination from the Basketball World Cup on Wednesday, August 30, 2023.

The Juba resident told AFP that “we have shown (the world) that it’s not just the war that we have in our country, but that we can do better in other fields.”

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South Sudan was placed 62 globally.

In their World Cup debut on Monday in Manila, the 62nd-ranked South Sudanese team upset China to win their first-ever match, giving their citizens a rare reprieve from the protracted challenges the small nation has been dealing with.

After gaining independence from Sudan in 2011, the violent, destitute country plunged into a five-year civil conflict that claimed approximately 400,000 lives between 2013 and 2018.

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Just six years ago, South Sudan participated in its first-ever international basketball match.

On Wednesday, hundreds of supporters gathered at the Nimra Talata basketball stadium in the nation’s capital, Juba, to support the squad. They blew vuvuzelas and wore the national colors as a huge screen showed the action from the Philippines.

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Even their team’s 115–83 defeat, known as the Bright Stars, couldn’t dampen their spirits.

“As a human, I don’t give a damn about the result. What matters to me is how they performed, how hard they worked, and how they helped put us on the basketball map, said Mary Nyanut to AFP.

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The basketball team’s best is yet to come.

“I know the best is yet to come,” she continued. The team’s victory over China earlier in the week was praised by others. Paul Isaac remarked, “We got to play with the great of the world.

It is “huge” for “a small country like South Sudan to come and beat China,” he continued. Luol Deng, a former Chicago Bulls player and current head of the national basketball federation, is credited with orchestrating the team’s success.

The flamboyant double NBA All-Star guided the group to a historic qualification for the World Cup while serving as the team’s coach throughout the qualifications.

He is working as head coach Royal Ivey’s assistant for the World Cup and hopes to get the squad an Olympic spot in Paris, which will go to the top five African countries; other contenders are Cape Verde, Egypt, the Ivory Coast, and Angola.

One of the poorest countries is South Sudan.

South Sudan, one of the world’s poorest nations despite having significant oil reserves, has been at war for over half of its history and is still plagued by outbursts of ethnic violence that are motivated by politics.

But the nation of South Sudan has united in support of the squad thanks to its basketball aspirations, according to many fans who spoke to AFP. Hillary Gaga Michael remarked, “As you can see, there is no tribe, there is no what; people are getting together to support their team.

He continued, “South Sudan’s reputation outside the country has been primarily known for negative things like war and strife, (but) our boys there… performed remarkable things. He told AFP, “It is really historic for us South Sudanese.” The world will now recognize us as basketball players.

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Agence France Presse

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