For the last five years, South Sudan has been
ravaged by a brutal civil war. It has left thousands dead and millions displaced, many
of whom have fled to neighbouring Sudan, Kenya and Uganda.
For those who remain, there is constant fear of conflict, of being caught up in the fighting
between the many opposing factions. The war began in 2013, two years after South
Sudan became the world’s newest independent nation after breaking away from Sudan. Disputes
with Sudan over oil escalated and led to clashes between the government and rebel groups.
Five years of fighting has taken its toll: as of late July, according to CNN, the youth
unemployment rate in South Sudan was at 38.6%. In a country with a median age of 18.1 years,
it means poverty, crime and delinquency. For young people, life is hard: there are
very few job prospects and many children have been separated from their families, left to
fend for themselves. That is where the Upper Nile football academy
comes in, set up in 2016 to provide a place for displaced youths, and to offer some hope,
some direction for those in a seemingly hopeless situation.
Based in the small, dusty town of Rubkona, in the north of South Sudan, the academy gives
children from the ages of four to 18 a chance to play football. They are split into age
groups, and take part in regular training sessions, matches and tournaments. But, most
importantly, the academy, which is part of a United Nations Protection of Civilians site,
gives them somewhere to belong. “Sport is the only tool left to unite people
in South Sudan,” Lat Tungwar Kueiguong, the co-founder of the Upper Nile academy,
told Tifo. “It is the only way to get back to normal and bring everlasting peace in the
country. “Sport, if well-organised, is a proven remedy
for delinquency and waywardness. On the other hand, failing to harness this energy for the
good of society can lead to it being used in anti-social behavior like crime and alcohol
abuse.” The aim, for Kueiguong and his colleagues,
is to “create a conducive environment for young children to grow and leave a mark in
the world. Without the Upper Nile academy, many of the
youngsters involved would be out on the streets, homeless and addicted to drugs. Instead, football
has given them a purpose, and the hope now is that more and more children are inspired
to join. “I’m glad these boys are becoming role models
to others their age,” said Kueiguong. “They are going to influence other good talent to
join them in the Academy which makes a huge impact, and it’s what motivates me most.”
Amongst the most talented players at the academy is 14-year-old Tot Meh Doh, nicknamed Antoine
Griezmann by his peers. The teenager, like thousands of others his age in South Sudan,
was aimless before he arrived at a training session one evening and impressed the Upper
Nile coaches with his freestyling. “Within one month of training with the rest
of the team he was ranked as the best player at the academy,” said Kueiguong. “I’m
sure this guy will make it to the professional level. But the academy needs some help.”
For all of the good work done at Upper Nile, resources remain scarce. A lack of funding
and basic equipment makes even putting on training sessions difficult. And there has
been little progress made in achieving piece over the last few months.
But the academy will continue to make a difference, to spread hope in a country torn apart by
war. “These young kids are in the middle of displacement
and torn families, but they breathe togetherness,” reads the latest post on Upper Nile’s Facebook
page. “To all the coaches coordinating the games, we appreciate you all! Keep your head
up high young men. Everything will be okay one day.”

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Dennis Veasley

91 thoughts on “Football in South Sudan: The Upper Nile Academy”

  1. Another excellent video lads. You guys sure know how to find the best and most interesting stories that no one else is talking about in football. Thank you.

  2. I appreciate your effort for this documentary pal, I'm South Sudanese though I'm not leaving there now., I know there is a great talent in most kids, however, the lack of resources and opportunities limited their talent. Hopefully, the country crisis ends ASAP to encourage foreigners to look for those kids talent one day.🙏🙏

  3. About 4 months ago, in the Leeds United vs Aston Villa game, Marcelo Bielsa made his players do something unbelievable that left their own fans with mouths opened wide. This week, he and his team won the FIFA Fair Play Award.

    …. You know what I'm talking about, Tifo. Thanks in advance for making a video about that incident.

  4. An example how sports can actually impact the society in its dire state. People who generally look down on sports as some unimportant past time doesn't realize how lucky they are, that they aren't in these situations.

  5. If this project is backed by the UN then why is it financially struggling? Why aren’t the UN helping if it’s listed as one of there projects?

  6. Tifo, could you guys maybe make a video or a series of videos about football in Southeast Asia?
    That would be very interesting!

  7. I hope there will be dozens of success stories to come out of the upper Nile academy. I cannot think of a more worthy academy to support and root for.

  8. Excellent how you're willing to discuss African Academies. Especially a relative unknown country like South Sudan so with that said I now feel confident to ask, are you willing to make a video on the Right to Dream Academy in Ghana or FC Bescola (Barcelona's Academy in Nigeria)?

  9. U guys always manage to tell me new information about the beautiful game and send chills down my spine with that beautiful commentary

  10. I really like the diversity of topics always something new and educative not only football related but also in variety of knowledge areas.

  11. Man can some just end the war already. I'm actually tired of hearing it might cause another World War when it's just a few countries against the terrorist. The terrorist aren't even part of a nation.

  12. Tifo is the best thing I have stumbled in2 on YouTube and I have been happy since Day 1 the guys are very diverse and cover almost everything in Football I appreciate the work put in into this clips the animation blows me away every time I watch a video I wish my fellow brothers from sudan 🇸🇩 all the best with their careers from me Andrew in South Africa 🇿🇦

  13. Could you please make a video on the new rb Salzburg team under Jesse marsch or a player profile on erling haaland braut.
    Keep the good work up as always👍

  14. South Sudan produce a legendary player in NBA, Manute Bol. Today, they have few in the NBA including manute son, Bol Bol. I really excited you've covered the football side of the country.

  15. This makes you appreciate Jurgen Klopp's words when he said "We should not forget what it was like when we had real problems. This bubble we live in is not the real world. I am sorry, but anything that happens on a football pitch is not a real problem. There should be a bigger purpose to this game than revenue and trophies, no? "

  16. Part of me wants to show this to big footballers that already have 120 cars and fancy Instagram dumb accounts. Maybe they'll wake up, and give 1% of their salary to help. It would change a lot.

  17. There were two wars and not a full one 2013-15 and 16-18 there was an unofficial cease fire. But yeah its the same problems and in so little time between them i consider fair calling it a war despite not calling WWI and WWII a single war. I know this cuz i have a known associate at UN who's doing a peacekeeping mission over there now that its all over but tensions are still high

  18. Very warm and fuzzy Tifo but if you’re going to start bringing in politics at least state the obvious. Sudan is forcing sharia on South Sudan and the christians are being persecuted and football will unite Sudanese when there are no christians left to play.

  19. Personally, as a Sudanese man who was heartbroken about the secession of South Sudan and their spiral into a brutal civil war between 2 tribalist Mercenaries; Machar and Salva kier, I thank you for making this video. The quality is excellent as always with absolute objectivity.

  20. I'm from neighboring Sudan and I had no idea about this academy. I wish there is something we can do for our south sudanese brothers. Great video as always.

  21. Tifo is the best football channel on YouTube, no question. Let's leave the losers to watch Nouman and Statman Dave.

  22. I am very glad you guys have been blowing up like you are your stories and actual look on football truly astonished me the first video I came to see facts actual care for the "beautiful game" and hard cold facts are nothing of a start of what this channel and your podcast does for my knowledge in football and think of the game more and more thank you

  23. This year, I've been studying Sudanese history in uni and truly I've been impressed about what this country and especially the South Sudanesw have endured over the last centuries. I hope things settle down there soon being from a country that saw 50% youth unemployment I kind of understand their feelings. Greetings from Greece to all Sudanese brothers to North and South

  24. This is why I love sports. It unites people like nothing else. Even if 2 people are fans of opposing teams, we can all still bond over our love of the game

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