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South Sudan’s men’s basketball team has secured a spot in the 2024 Paris Olympics as the last African nation standing to clinch the FIBA World Cup.
Headed by Luol Deng, a retired two-time NBA All-Star, the Bright Stars beat Angola 3-2 to move on to the world stage. Gaining its independence from Sudan just 12 years ago in 2011, South Sudan is the youngest country on Earth. Yet their fledging international basketball program has punched above its weight class.
“Where we goin’?” Deng chanted at his team after the World Cup win.
“Paris,” the players responded.
The World Cup serves as a qualifier for seven teams: the two top-ranked teams from the Americas, two from Europe, and one each from Asia, Oceania and Africa.
South Sudan’s 101-78 victory over Angola on Saturday, Sept. 2 makes it an automatic qualifier for the Paris Olympics.
It’s an incredible achievement for a country still navigating through conflict.
At 12 years old, South Sudan seeks to become star at 2024 Paris Olympic
Becoming Africa’s representative at the 2024 Paris Olympics comes after a long journey through trauma and conflict. Deng, the former NBA star who helped establish South Sudan’s international basketball team, is determined to use the sport to provide a beacon of hope to his country, Okay Africa reported.
“This team is a beam of light, like I keep on saying,” the South Sudan coach, Royal Ivey, said. “We’re bringing unity, camaraderie, love and friendship to this country. This country’s only been independent for 12 years. To do this, for Luol Deng to put this together, this is incredible. This is incredible.”
South Sudan was part of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan under British and Egyptian rule during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In 1956, during a period of African rejection of European colonization, Sudan gained independence from British-Egyptian rule. Yet South Sudan remained a region within Sudan, despite the various cultures and ethnicities that the Western maps didn’t consider.
For decades between 1955 and 1972 the the predominantly Arab and Islamic north clashed with the Christian and animist south in what became known as the First Sudanese Civil War. To end the war, the country ultimately gave the south limited self-rule through the Addis Ababa agreement, according to the United States Institute of Peace.
Meanwhile, conflict erupted with a second civil war between 1983 and 2005 until a peace agreement was signed. In 2011, South Sudanese people voted overwhelming for independence, and the newest nation was born on July 9, 2011.
While issues remain, such as ethnic clashes, lack of economic development and governance issues, South Sudan has emerged as a top contender at the 2024 Paris Olympics.