The people of South Sudan are among the tallest people in the world, and this may explain why many of them shine in the sport of basketball. One of them is Lol Ding, a former NBA star, who retired in 2019 after 15 seasons in which he performed at the best levels with the Chicago Bulls and other teams, before recently assuming the job of coaching the South Sudan national team.
In a report from the capital, Juba, the British “The Economist” magazine says that Deng is trying, through this new experience, to employ sports in an attempt to fix what has been rotten by the wars in South Sudan.
Last December, South Sudan won enough matches to qualify for the African Basketball Championship for the first time in its history, and this is an achievement for a new team in international competitions. Of the 12 players on the list, 11 grew up outside South Sudan, which has been torn apart by civil war since declaring its independence from Sudan 10 years ago.
Boys ready to make the nation proud again 🇸🇸💪🏿
Posted by South Sudan National Basketball Team on Thursday, November 26, 2020
According to a study conducted by researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in 2018, the country’s civil war has killed nearly 200,000 people, and may indirectly double this number of deaths from hunger and disease.
Ding, who contributes to the spending on the national team, hopes the team’s brilliance will help unify the country and transform its image abroad. “We are doing something bigger than basketball,” he says. “There are people who live in depression, hunger and suffering … this two-hour game gives them a sense of pride that helps them withstand.”
Posted by Luol Deng on Wednesday, December 9, 2020
For his part, Minister of Youth and Sports Albino Paul Dho hopes sport will fix what politics has spoiled. Dho plans to build at least one sports complex and basketball court in each of the country’s 10 states. But it is not clear how this mega project will be financed. The budget allocated by the government to the Ministry of Youth and Sports is about $ 5.3 million, which is roughly 1% of the cost of the project, according to The Economist.
With the South Sudan team advancing 9 places in the International Basketball Federation’s classification after qualifying for the African Nations Finals, many sports fans in the country hope that the team will shine during its participation in the tournament, which will be held next August; Because that will be a source of pride for many young people, and encourage them to lay down arms and play sports.