Headline: Impact of foreign players in Sudan
Location: Khartoum, Sudan, Africa
Article Synopsis: Recently a number of foreign players have joined the two big Sudanese clubs, Alahil and Almarekh. Whilst this has had an immediate effect in terms of results, it has negatively impacted on the national team with local players not having the same opportunities to play in the big clubs on the way to play national.
Opening Paragraph: Sudan is a nation that has endured more than its share of bad news; from civil conflict to drought and disaster. So, in the greater scheme of things perhaps the 12th of October 2009 will be little remembered. But for the country’s football fans it was a day of regret – even shame – because once again they were eliminated from qualification for the prized African Cup of Nations. The setback immediately set off a new debate about whether the increasing number of foreigners playing for Sudan in recent years was the reason for the national team’s poor showing.
Keywords: Sudan, Africa, conflicts, disaster, football, alhilal, almerikh, CAF, foreign players, local players, CAN 2008, world cup 2010, CAF champions league, court, legal problem, Worgou, Nigeria, Enyimba, Shadad, Europe, national team.
Language: English, Arabic
Text ( English ) :
Sudan: Impact of foreign players in Sudan
BY: Dr. Amin Kheir
Sudan is a nation that has endured more than its share of bad news recently, from civil conflict to drought and disaster. So in the greater scheme of things and the nation’s history perhaps the 12th of October 2009 will be little remembered.
But for the country’s football fans it was a day of regret – even shame – because once again they were eliminated from qualification for the prized African Cup of Nations. The setback immediately sparked new debate about whether the increasing number of foreigners playing for Sudan is the reason for the national team’s poor showing.
The country’s two big clubs, Alhilal and Almerikh, have been the dominant sides in Sudanese football for a very long time and they are the main suppliers of the national team. But in the last five years, with control of the two clubs going to rich businessmen, the trend has been to bring foreigners into their line ups instead of local players.
During this time, the top scorers of the Sudan premier league were foreigners and a quick look at the main squads of Alhilal and Almerikh shows five foreigners in the starting eleven of both sides for the last two years.
The shift has paid off in African club competitions as in the last three years Alhilal made it to the semi-final of the CAF champions’ league twice and Almerikh went all the way to the final of the Confederation Cup. Both sides have shared victory in domestic competitions.
And while Sudan made it to the 2008 final of the African Cup of Nations in Ghana for the first time in 32 years, the national team has since failed to qualify for the 2009 African Cup of Nations, the 2010 World Cup and now the 2010 African Cup of Nations.
The President of the Sudan Football Federation, Kamal Shadad, has no doubts that the influx of foreign players into the domestic competition has been detrimental to the national team.
“Absolutely, it has had a negative impact on our national team. The foreign players are limited to three but these two top clubs are fighting for an increase to six. The clubs go as far as obtaining national status for some players from other countries, making them eligible to have even more foreign players,” Shadad said.
“For the past few years, the top three scorers in domestic competitions have been foreigners. We don’t have scorers in our national team and this is affecting us. CAN 2008 in Ghana was a good example of the problem we face in the attack. There were no scorers,” he added.
Asked about the impact of foreign players on Sudanese football, Shadad replied:”We do have good foreign players, mainly from Nigeria. The only issue is that they don’t settle down immediately due to cultural differences.”
The situation has reached such a level that some teams visit Sudan for so-called “training camps”, which are really a ruse to showcase players that Sudanese clubs might want to buy.
Shadad referred to Stephan Worgou who had a very promising start with Nigeria’s Enyimba in last year’s CAF champions league and went on to become the top scorer of the competition.
Regarded as a future star of the Nigerian national team, it was a big shock for the Nigerian media and local supporters when he chose to play for Sudan’s Almerikh in a contract worth more around $1.5 million, instead of accepting any of the numerous offers from Europe.
Explaining his decision, Worgou said:”Many players think it’s all about the money, but for me, it is about something more satisfying and fulfilling, You just don’t pack your bags and go to Europe because many people say so – there is a right time and moment for you to take such a big decision and only when you are mentally prepared.”
“For me that time is not now. Almerikh has unbelievable facilities and also possesses a strong professional attitude. The club understands that I am young and have guaranteed me an easy route to a bigger challenge elsewhere if the time comes,” he added.
In a bid to solve the foreign player crisis, the Sudan FA last year limited the number of foreigners who could obtain Sudanese status and play domestically to only one player, whereas the big clubs already had two or three players.
As a result Alhilal stopped playing in the premier league and then took legal action against the federation, finally winning a court order that allowed them to play all their foreigner-national players.
This phenomenon is not new in Sudan as big teams do it to get around the law, which limits the foreign players to three. They even get special treatment from the government to give those players the national status, even if they have not completed the required five years of citizenship.
Aware of the tactic, these players are not liable to play on the national team under the laws of FIFA who limited the ability of those players to play in the national team only if they have family roots from the country or have stayed there for a minimum of three years. This is not the case in all the foreigners-national players in Sudan.
Moshkla, the former coach of Almerikh, said the situation has to be changed if Sudan is again to become a force in international competition. “It’s very bad for our football and it has to be limited because even if those foreigners are very good we can’t play them in our national team and we don’t give enough opportunity for our local players,” Moshkla said.
Shams Aldeen, secretary of the Sudan football federation agrees saying: “We have to protect our local players by limiting the foreigners and we are going to battle all the way in this direction.” But Imad Aldeen, general deputy of Alhilal, said the debate about foreign players simply covered up the shortcomings of the national team.
“Crying about the national team is pointless because our national team has not been good for a very long time and foreigners don’t affect it positively nor negatively. It’s the fault of the federation because they were not flexible with us in increasing the number of foreigners players to six. This has forced us to give some of them national status in order to compete on the level of big clubs in Africa,” Aldeen said. Shadad insists on limiting the foreign players, not only in the domestic league, but also in African competitions.
“These clubs put great pressure on us to open the door for more foreign players to come because they want to achieve a great result in local and international levels. I will propose that CAF should help us to limit the number of foreign players registering in all CAF competitions,” he concluded.