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Al Hilal: Sudan’s Football Club Finds Refuge in Tanzania Amid Civil War



Almost a year since civil war erupted in Sudan, the country’s premier football club, Al Hilal, has found a sanctuary in Tanzania to continue playing amidst the turmoil.

With over 14,000 casualties and millions displaced, the domestic league in Sudan has been on hold, prompting Al Hilal to seek an agreement with the Tanzanian Football Federation (TFF) to participate in the Tanzanian top-flight league starting in August.

Dr. Hassan Ali, the club’s secretary general, emphasized that their decision to keep playing during these dark times was aimed at providing a distraction to the Sudanese people, offering them moments of joy amid the chaos.

Having explored options with other federations such as Uganda and Libya, Al Hilal settled on Tanzania due to its competitive football environment and familiarity, having used the country as a base during their recent Champions League campaign.

The TFF confirmed that Al Hilal’s matches would be considered friendly games, not impacting the official league standings but aiming to boost interest in the competition, potentially increasing revenue for clubs.

Al Hilal’s move to set up base in Tanzania also serves as a strategy to retain their players and coach, Florent Ibenge, as they prepare for upcoming continental competitions.

Amid the conflict, the club highlighted the challenges faced, including being in exile, playing in a state of war away from families, and dealing with extensive damage to their home ground, the ‘Blue Jewel‘ stadium.

While Al Hilal and Al Merreikh, Sudan’s oldest club, secure alternative bases, other Sudanese clubs struggle to sustain operations, leading to player departures and financial strain.

Many Sudanese players have sought opportunities abroad, notably in Libya, where the league has resumed, albeit with lower salaries and short-term contracts for Sudanese players.

Despite the difficulties, players like John Mano, now competing in Libya, express the importance of continuing their careers to support their families while closely following developments in Sudan.

Looking ahead, the road to reviving domestic football in Sudan post-war is expected to be arduous, requiring significant rebuilding efforts across teams and infrastructural repairs.

The overarching goal remains the cessation of conflict to pave the way for a gradual recovery in the Sudanese football landscape.

Rachel Adams

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