Written by by CNN Staff
Salva Kiir is making a victory tour of international friendly venues.
The president of South Sudan announced that he plans to team up with international stars such as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as his nation champions its football aspirations.
“We will be playing a friendly match on March 22 against Sudan,” Kiir said during a news conference in China on Tuesday. “It will be in Juba, the capital, and I expect to have many legends from around the world on the field and coach (Rafael) Benitez.”
The match, which will also include players from Khartoum, is set to be part of the World Cup qualifiers.
“We will get together with players from South Sudan to work out how our national team can achieve the desired goals,” said captain Manfred Maring to Reuters.
Despite its apparent ambition to host a major international match, it remains to be seen whether South Sudan will manage to field a squad among the best of many nations.
Forbes estimates that it still has approximately 15% of the population available to its 18 registered teams.
The footballing league, often called the Nuba League, has also had to cope with a long conflict. The conflict, which lasted from 2011 to 2012, is considered to be the second-longest in the world, behind the Spanish Civil War.
After South Sudan won independence from Sudan in 2011, Kenya’s Gor Mahia opened a base in Garowe, but players and officials fled following a wave of attacks on the refugees.
During a visit to the country in 2012, FIFA president Gianni Infantino pledged to address the issue of corruption in world football in order to bring added hope for the sports deprived nation.
A year later, FIFA passed a rule requiring all countries, including South Sudan, to come up with a team by 2020.