Thursday, December 20, 2007
Most followers of world news know about Sudan's recent problems.
One avenue of entertainment and joy for the Sudanese people has been the football team.
Sudan wants to give even more joy to their people this January at the African Cup of Nations in Ghana.
The Nile Crocodiles' appearance in Ghana will be their first in the Cup finals in 32 years. They were one of the only three teams (Egypt, Ethiopia) to participate in the inaugural African Cup in 1957 and won the competition in 1970 when they hosted it.
According to Ahmed Al Maazar, vice-president of the Sudanese Football federation, they are leaving nothing to chance in their preparations for the tournament.
Sudan are scheduled to be in Spain early next month, where they will train and play friendly matches against Nigeria and the Ivory Coast.
Al Maazar told BBC Sport that players have been promised cash incentives "to fire them up" as they represent their country.
"The players will be given some money by the federation and we're also planning to buy them plots of land," he said.
"The president of the country (Omar Al Bashir) has promised them big things as a way of motivating them. We want to go there and have a very good tournament; we want to show how valuable Sudanese players are," Al Maazar said.
Sudan finished top of their qualifying group in a year which also saw Al Merreikh and Al Hilal shine in African club competitions.
When asked to name players likely to lead them to Nations Cup glory, Al Maazar singled out 37-year-old Faisal Ajab - scorer of five goals during the qualifiers.
He also mentioned 29-year-old Haitham Tambal, Ajab's team-mate at Al Mereikh.
Unlike most teams going to Ghana, all of Sudan's players are from domestic squads.
Sudan face a tough road out of the first round: they are in the same group as Egypt, Cameroon and Zambia.