South Sudan's first football international: fans try to catch a glimpse of the game any way they can

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A day after South Sudan celebrated the first anniversary of its independence from Sudan on 9th July 2012, it held its first ever international football game to be recognised by FIFA, the world game’s governing body. The opponents were Uganda. A tightly contested game, in which Uganda were reduced to 10 men, resulted in a 1-1 draw.

The creaking stands of the Juba football stadium were filled to capacity, with many more spectators sitting in the sand by the touchline, or finding vantage points on the stadium walls, atop vehicles outside the group, and even on the top of a startlingly precarious advertising hoarding on the other side of the road from the stadium.

The game was held at a time of tension between South Sudanese and Ugandans. A large proportion of the working population in South Sudan’s capital Juba is of Ugandan origin, causing resentment among some locals who believe that these jobs should be reserved for South Sudanese – even in the absence of a qualified labour force. In 2012, on the South Sudanese side of the border with Uganda, the tension spilled over into violence, and Ugandan workers were attacked by locals on several occasions.

As a result of these tensions – and because security had already been heightened around the independence day anniversary celebrations – South Sudan’s first international football game was heavily policed. But while fans of both sides were noisy and enthusiastic throughout the game, there was no trouble.

Here, the crowd uses every inch of Juba stadium and fans clamber onto cars parked outside the ground in order to catch a glimpse of South Sudan’s first ever international football game.

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