Sat. Jun 15th, 2024

Midfielder Muataz Hashem says Sudan are looking to bring joy to football fans in the war-torn country by clinching qualification for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon).

Sudan face Mauritania on Tuesday, knowing a win will take them top of Group I with one game remaining.

The Secretary Birds are the home side but are being forced to train and play in Morocco because of the ongoing conflict in their country.

“[It is] very difficult to be far from your country, land and stadium,” Hashem told BBC Sport Africa.

“But we count on determination and persistence, and all my colleagues are aware of this task.”

Sudan’s 1-0 win against Gabon in their previous qualifier has raised hopes of a second successive appearance at an Afcon finals.

The 1970 champions played that game in front of their own fans in Omdurman on 27 March, three weeks before the conflict led the national federation to suspend all football in the country.

“We have to forget the circumstances in which my country is living today,” added Hashem.

“We have to focus on football in order to bring joy to the Sudanese people – who need joy to mitigate their suffering and forget their circumstances, even for a few days.”

Sudan head coach Badou Zaki, who was only appointed in March, helped choose the venue for both the current training camp and the match with Mauritania at the Adrar Stadium in Agadir.

The team has already played several warm-up matches in their new North African home.

Hashem insists the game against Mauritania goes beyond what happens on the pitch and represents an opportunity to unify all Sudanese.

“Our victory may help stabilise Sudan,” said the 27-year-old.

“We are counting on the spirit of the group and our goal is to take the name of Sudan high.”

A win and a draw from their final two games will be enough to book Sudan’s place at the tournament in Ivory Coast.

The team’s final group game will be away at current group leaders the Democratic Republic of Congo in September.

By Joy

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