Homeless: Will Juba Stadium be ready to host Bright Stars’ AFCON Qualifiers?

Homeless: Will Juba Stadium be ready to host Bright Stars’ AFCON Qualifiers?
The under construction Juba National Stadium [Photo: SSFA]

A stadium that was earmarked for completion two years ago is still drenching in sweat from the scorching sun above, $5 million FIFA-funded gobbled up, and five calendars folded since the first stone of its foundation was laid just a few metres from Pyramid Hotel.

This even as South Sudanese officials continue giving the usual assurance that the new facility will soon open its door to the public. In reality, though, it is taking longer than expected.

The Bright Stars recently qualified for the AFCON Qualifications, which will begin this year.

Back at home, especially in the capital Juba, local fans are still clinging to a slim hope that their national team will play their games on home soil. But the prospect of seeing some of the country’s football idols – the pride of the nation sweat it out with other African big boys, in the AFCONQ Qualifiers, at their backyard, is a dream that could easily go up with the dusty. To this point, South Sudan still don’t have a standard stadium befitting of FIFA standards.

Juba National Stadium is in ruins. The facility remains a ghost project even though just five per cent of the work is left before it could be ready to host matches.

“I want to inform the public that this stadium will see the light officially by the beginning of the year 2022,” Dr Albino Bol, the National Minister of Youth and Sports said in November 2021.

He was in the presence of the South Sudan Football Association (SSFA) president  Gen. Augustino Maduot. Just like Dr Bol, Gen. Augustino also told reporters during one of their visits to the stadium that people should prepare to see the launch.

“I will take this opportunity to reassure people about the status of the stadium. “It is a concrete one which [is of high grade] and very soon, we will see the light and it will be launched by the President of the Republic,” Dr Albino said.

Early this year, Gen. Madout, made a u-turn when he admitted that that much-expected inauguration would not take place as planned due to financial constraints. 

According to the national football boss, SSFA still requires additional funding to finish the project.

During a recent visit by FIFA’s head of Development Committee Solomon Mudege reluctantly expressed confidence that Bright Stars will play their home games, pencilled to kick off in September of this year, in Juba.

“The goal is to host the AFCON Qualifications in September,” Mr Mudege said during his tour of the stadium. “As a result, the stadium is expected to be completed by the third quarter of this year” (September). FIFA is working hard to make sure the deadline is met.

But where is the stadium?

This is the question most people so eager to watch their local boys are asking themselves.

The question remains whether South Sudanese will perceive these as standard government assertions. Will the qualifiers be held at Bright Stars’ home stadium?

Ali Gajaque, an ardent supporter of the national team believes that home support is what Bright Stars need if they are to sail through the gritty Group G that includes Mali, Congo, and The Gambia.

“The group we’ve been assigned to isn’t a horrible one, but our concern is whether we’ll be able to play some of the games at home, where fans can participate. I feel we could do something if we were to have our home games here.

“We’ve had enough of the lies. We could have seen the inauguration a long time ago, even during Amin’s presidency, but it will not happen, so I will not accept what they say now until they deliver the stadium.

To do that, though, SSFA must look for funds to finish up “Seven Mile” which unfortunately was not part of the FIFA project and was not included in the original contract.

Juba Stadium construction was launched officially on April 5, 2019. And the stadium is to accommodate 7,000 people.