In a momentous occasion for South Sudan, the nation’s basketball team, the Bright Stars, is set to make a historic debut in the 2023 FIBA World Cup. As they gear up to face Puerto Rico, a basketball powerhouse, the excitement and pride among fans and players in Juba are palpable.
Puerto Rico, ranked 19th in the FIBA standings, is no stranger to the World Cup stage, having made their debut back in 1957. They’ve participated in 12 World Championships but have yet to clinch a medal. Given their experience and ranking, they are the favorites in the upcoming match against the 62nd ranked Bright Stars. However, with a roster bolstered by overseas talent, South Sudan might just surprise everyone.
The Bright Stars’ journey in the tournament will also see them competing against China and Serbia in the preliminary rounds, with the games taking place in the Philippines. Back home in Juba, fans who couldn’t make the trip to Manila will gather at the Nimra Talata Basketball Playground, where the match will be broadcasted live on a large screen.
Matthew Mayom, a player from the Cobra Basketball team, expressed his confidence in the national team, stating that they have the height, strength, and both the mental and physical game to compete at the highest level.
For many like Wol Konag, this is more than just a game. It’s a symbol of national pride and unity. He emphasized the importance of sports in bridging divides and expressed hope for the country’s victory in the World Cup, while also highlighting the need for unity and the role of sports in achieving it.
Malual Bol, another Cobra player, echoed similar sentiments, highlighting the significance of South Sudan’s participation. He mentioned the team’s strong performance in Afro-Basketball and their unity as key strengths.
While Bol remains hopeful for the team to reach the round of 16, he emphasizes the importance of unwavering support from fans, regardless of the outcome. The tournament has already seen victories from Lithuania, Germany, the Dominican Republic, and Canada, while The Philippines, Egypt, Angola, Japan, and France faced defeats in their opening matches.
Banen Ayuel, a passionate basketball enthusiast in Juba, summed up the national sentiment. He expressed pride in the team’s achievements and optimism for their match against Puerto Rico, urging all South Sudanese to support the national basketball team in the World Cup.