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Is South Sudan, Uganda’s newest football rival?

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The rivalry is often viewed as a negative word. But it’s not, at least not in football. The most-watched football matches were between native or international rivals and it will be like that in the future.

Not only does a healthy competition between a team and an individual make a game more interesting to watch but also it makes the opponents push each other and grow more to be better than in the past.

Some rivalries might be created among the clubs in the same region, city, or country to see who the best club in that area is. Some others can be traced back to more than a century and there may be other reasons such as religious beliefs, political affiliation, and in Africa, it could be tribal, etc.

You might ask yourself what a derby should have to be among the biggest rivalries in the football world. Well, it depends on many things but for example, we can consider its importance for football fans or the controversy and potential between clubs or countries.

Uganda and South Sudan of late have become football rivals, stemming from recent skirmishes in recent games played between the two nations.

South Sudan became independent in 2011 and Uganda has been politically active in the affairs of that nation. This has on numerous occasions caused conflict between the two nations and the communities on the borders of the two nations. 

The hostilities between the two nations have escalated the rivalry on the football field.

South Sudan joined the Fifa football family in 2012 just eight years ago, making Uganda a bit more superior in terms of organization, quality of playing staff, and rankings in FIFA standings.

Uganda first faced South Sudan in the qualifiers of the African Nations Championship in 2017 and drew 0-0, the Cranes went out 5-1 winners in the return leg. 

This was expected and most people were not happy with that result as they expected a bigger whitewash. Uganda later in the year handed their northern neighbors the same result in the CECAFA championship. 

This was becoming a normal routine battering until the two countries met in the AFCON U23 qualifiers.

The South Sudan Football Federation went around the world looking for any players with Sudanese heritage. Some Uganda born footballers were summoned to be part of the youth setup. These included Mackweth Wol , Wani Ivan, and Chika Sydney.

Uganda had an all-star side that featured Mustafa Kizza, Ashiraf Mugume, Lawrence Bukenya, Shafik Kuchi Kagimu, Allan Okello, Julius Poloto, Joseph Junior Semujju, Ezekiel Duncan Sseninde, Joel Madondo, Steven Desse Mukwala, Trevor Ssemakula, and Mustafa Mujjuzi.

The first game in Lugogo ended with the Kobs nipping it with a late winner by Kizza. The fans were not very happy with the results considering that, that was the future of the national team. If that was an insight of things yet to come, Uganda was battered 3-0 in Juba thus being eliminated.

Uganda was drawn together with South Sudan again in the 2021 AFCON qualification campaign. It was assumed that the doubleheader would provide Uganda with a clean six points. It became a mountain to climb with Uganda Cranes getting a late winner from substitute Halid Lwaliwa. 

The return leg played in Nairobi was a heart breaker as Ugandan born Southern Sudan International Tito Okello scored a penalty for the first senior team win over the Cranes. 

This rubbed the Cranes fans the wrong way and has created animosity that is creating a local rivalry.

As we were still recovering from the shock of the senior side the Cranes, the Under 20 side were handed a tie with their South Sudan counterparts in Tanzania. The game ended in a goalless game.

If the fans are allowed in stadiums the next time the two sides faceoff, I expect a full stadium if the game is played in Namboole. 

We are bracing ourselves for another derby in East Africa overtaking Kenya-Uganda, and Uganda-Rwanda.

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