South Sudan’s men have made history by qualifying for this year’s Basketball World Cup – becoming the first African nation to qualify at their first attempt.
The Bright Stars beat Senegal 83-75 in their latest qualifier in Alexandria, Egypt, to seal their place at the tournament which will be co-hosted by Indonesia, Japan and the Philippines from 25 August to 10 September.
Africa has been allocated a total of five berths with Ivory Coast also already qualified.
South Sudan’s success is impressive for a country of 11.5 million people that gained independence in 2011 and only competed in its first international tournament three years ago.
Coached by NBA legend Luol Deng, South Sudan become just the ninth African nation to reach the World Cup, joining Algeria, Central African Republic, Egypt, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Senegal, Tunisia and Angola, who lead the way with eight appearances.
South Sudan’s fairytale Afrobasket run
“We come from a country that has been through a lot,” Deng told BBC Sport Africa in 2020.
“Some of these kids [the players], what they went through is something that you cannot control and, as life goes on, a lot of people never get an opportunity to come back home, let alone to wear a jersey and represent the nation.
“For them, it is more than just a game, it is really emotional.”
Following the victory over Senegal, the Bright Stars have now won 9 out of 10 matches in qualification.