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South Sudan joins Confederation of African football

February 10, 2012 (JUBA) - South Sudan on Friday said it has been granted provisional membership at Confederation of African Football (CAF), making the new nation the continent’s youngest football nation.

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Confederation of African Football (CAF) president Issa Hayatou, left, receives South Sudan’s national flag from its federation president Oliver Benjamin, right, during the CAF General Assembly in Libreville, Gabon, Friday Feb. 10, 2012. (AP)

The country’s ministry of culture, youth and sports, welcomed the offer thanking the CAF leadership for speeding up the new countries provisional membership. The ministry pledged to exert more efforts in developing capacity of the national football association.

Sport is believed to be one of the ways ethnically diverse South Sudan can build a nation identity after it became independent from Sudan in July last year.

Cirino Hiteng Ofuho, the minister of culture, youth and sports, described the admission of his country as “timely” and one of a major achievement for his ministry.

Despite being admitted, Ofuho said South Sudan will not participate in any international competition in the next two years. This was needed to develop the national team and facilitate access to financial assistance from African football’s governing body.

South Sudan’s admission comes just a month after the country’s national body was formed to pave way for first election for leaders of a new South Sudan Football Association in April.

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The new nation also expects full membership of the world’s governing body FIFA by 2014 while CAF plans to offer technical assistance, specifically development of administrators, referees, coaches and sports medicine specialists as well as establishing a national league.

“Our admission to Confederation of African Football is one of the steps [to] joining FIFA. If all go[es] well we will be granted a membership in 2014 after which South Sudan can play in the World Cup and African Nations Cup and enter teams in Africa’s two annual club competitions”, a statement from the ministry says.

South Sudan has already been admitted into the United Nations and African Union and has the option to join the Arab League, as it seceded from a member of the pan Arab body - Sudan.

Enforcement of Arab-Islamic identity on South Sudan - and peripheral areas of North Sudan - was one of the causes that caused the conflict between north and south.

On Sunday Ivory Coast take on underdogs Zambia in the final of the African Nations Cup in Libreville, the capital of Gabon. Sudan made the quarter finals before they were knocked out by Zambia, loosing 3-0.

Sudan are ranked as the world’s 120th best team and Africa’s 30th best. When South Sudan plays it first international in 2014 it will begin as the world’s 207th team and Africa’s 54th.

(ST)