Sudan had entered AFCON 2012 with 23 home-based players, all playing in Sudan. It was the first time they had qualified since 2008, and before that it was 1976. We were thrown into a group with Ivory Coast, Angola and Burkina Faso.
We lost the first game 1-0 to Ivory Coast and had to get something out of the Angola game in Malabo to have hopes of progressing. Manucho scored four minutes in and Sudan were one down. Sad, disappointed, hurt. But now Sudan had to score, something we haven’t done in AFCON in 32 years. But then in the 36th minute – Al Hilal Omdurman forward Mohamed Ahmed Bashir leapt in between two Angolans and headed home a Mudathir Kareka cross. It was Sudan’s first AFCON goal in 32 years, an incredible moment. The commentator lost his voice, tears everywhere, even my father expressed tears of joy, we had waited years to see our nation score at AFCON. After losing 3-0 three times in 2008, this moment was definitely one to treasure.
Our 23 home based players were written off before the tournament had begun, but they fought like lions that day. 2-2 it ended in Malabo, and Sudan were in with a chance of qualifying but had to beat Burkina Faso in Bata in the last match and needed Ivory Coast to defeat Angola 2-0 in the other match. Sleepless nights lay ahead, the thoughts of the last day scenario were just lingering in my head 24-7. Could Sudan really qualify to the quarter final and be amongst the last eight? This would definitely be a dream come true.
Match day – flags, shirts, scarfs were out, prayers performed, awaiting kick off, stood in front of the TV and I sang my heart out as the national anthem was being played. We knew its was going to be difficult, but not impossible. 33 minutes in the wonderful Mudather Kareka skips past Bakary Kone and finishes past Soulama. At EXACTLY the same moment, Emmanuel Eboue put CIV in front vs Angola! The whole family knelt in prayer, we started to believe, adrenaline was pumping, heart beating fast.
Bony then doubled Ivory Coast’s lead! As it stands – Sudan Qualify! The atmosphere in my living room that day was amazing. As time went on, we knew we were going to make it. In the 79th minute, Akram Salim send a long ball to Kareka who rounds Soulama and doubles Sudan’s lead. I couldn’t believe it, I started running around my house like a headless chicken – Sudan were heading for the last eight! The game ended 2-1 and Sudan qualified. That day (30 January 2012) remains one of the best days in my life. Sudan did the unthinkable! First quarter final apperance since 1970 when we were crowned champions – could we repeat that triumph?. That day i started to think everything was possible – one of the best moments of my life.
Abdul’s is one of the winning entries in our AFCON Memories competition with AMS Clothing, and he wins a national team jersey from the AMS range.
Thanks to AMS Clothing, kit suppliers to the national teams of Sierra Leone and South Sudan, for providing prizes for our AFCON Memories competition. We caught up with AMS founder Luke Westcott, and asked him to explain a bit more about how AMS got started, what makes it distinctive, and where it’s heading.
“Founded in late 2013, AMS recognised the social, as well as commercial opportunities presented in the hugely popular, yet largely informal football industry in Africa. This recognition came about after traveling to Africa and discovering that the only football apparel available for purchase at a reasonable price were low-quality, counterfeit products. Many of these products were the national team apparel of each respective country we travelled to. This led to the idea of becoming the official national team suppliers, and then providing the respective national football federations with the opportunity to offer their official products to the domestic market, at a price that meet the market demands. This means that fans can purchase official products, featuring cool designs, at a fair price, whilst supporting their national football federation in the process. Furthermore, we also supply the international market through the AMS online store and a few other retailers. This allows us to raise revenue and expand to further countries.
“The main focus we highlight to FA’s as to why they should choose us is the opportunity we provide them to effectively commercialise on the popularity of the national team. Many of the smaller federations never receive revenue from apparel sales, even when they are supplied by major sportswear brands. Many of these brands do not make apparel available for purchase, and if they do, it is often at a price that is way too expensive for most people in the domestic market. Furthermore, all our designs are customised and are created to the specifications of the FA. We never use boring template designs, and always try to design something interesting that will be popular with local fans.”