Tuesday 11 June 2024, 21:30

FIFA President and President of South Sudan inaugurate revamped Juba National Stadium

  • FIFA President Gianni Infantino and President Salva Kiir Mayardit join South Sudan Football Association President Augustino Parek to open newly-renovated national stadium

  • Nearly USD 7 million in FIFA funding supported the work at the venue in South Sudan’s capital

  • FIFA Forward 3.0 will facilitate further improvements and support construction of first national Technical Centre in the world’s youngest country

FIFA President Gianni Infantino has joined the President of South Sudan Salva Kiir Mayardit, the President of the South Sudan Football Association (SSFA) Augustino Parek and leading continental football officials to open the African nation’s freshly-renovated Juba National Stadium.

The inauguration ceremony preceded South Sudan’s FIFA World Cup 26™ qualifier against neighbours Sudan.

“Today I’m a happy man. Today is a wonderful occasion. It is a milestone in the very young history of South Sudan, of the youngest country in the world,” said Mr Infantino on his third visit to the country, which only gained independence in 2011, and who was welcomed by local schoolchildren holding a sign that read, “Welcome to your second home!”.

“This is a great occasion. It is a great opportunity to showcase South Sudan, to showcase the youth of this country, which has so much talent, and it’s our joint responsibility to give this talent an opportunity. Now, this talent, when it comes to football, has the opportunity to play in a brand-new national stadium, [to] which FIFA has been contributing, but it has been a teamwork of all of us to build. And today, we have a beautiful jewel here in South Sudan.”

The stadium has been renovated thanks to FIFA funds. The FIFA Forward Development Programme, which has been supporting FIFA Member Associations’ (MA) infrastructure projects since its establishment in 2016, provided USD 5.1 million while a USD 1.8 million COVID-19 relief loan completed the necessary funding. It facilitated the construction of four dressing rooms, team benches, a media tribune, VIP areas and other facilities, turning the stadium into a 7,000-capacity venue.

“On behalf of the South Sudan Football Association, and on behalf of all footballers and the whole country at the youth [level], we are so delighted that we have the President of FIFA to be with us, really to support us, to give us morale,” said President Parek during the inauguration ceremony. “He has been very supportive; he has initiated the FIFA Forward projects and definitely concentrated on making this Juba National Stadium finished and inaugurated. He has put energy into all the staff and all the FIFA departments were directed to [get] this finished. And I’m really very happy to receive you and welcome you to South Sudan.”

The FIFA President was accompanied on his visit to South Sudan by FIFA Secretary General Mattias Grafström, FIFA Regional Director Africa Gelson Fernandes, Head of President's Office Federico Raviglione and FIFA Legend and Lead Doha Office Houssine Kharja.

FIFA paid out COVID-19 relief loans as MAs struggled with the economic impact of the pandemic. The SSFA will reimburse theirs with a slice of the maximum USD 8 million package it is eligible to receive over the next four-year cycle of the FIFA Forward programme. However, the seven-fold increase in funding since 2016 will mean the SSFA can still complete plans to bring the stadium fully up to Confederation of African Football (CAF) and FIFA norms with the installation of floodlights and a giant screen.

It also means a project to construct a new Technical Centre that matches FIFA specifications in Nesitu, located east of Juba, can go ahead. The centre, which is scheduled to be completed by July 2025, is aimed at not only providing South Sudan’s national teams with optimal training and preparation facilities, but also building capacity on and off the pitch at all levels in order to keep the country’s football development on an upward trajectory.

“Today, we unite the world here in Juba, in South Sudan,“ the FIFA President added as he attended a FIFA World Cup 26 qualifier exactly two years before the opening match of the final tournament, which is being staged in Canada, Mexico and the United States.

“Today Juba is the capital of the world, and the eyes of the world are watching South Sudan. So, show the world who you are, show the world South Sudan, the youth, show the world the happiness and what we can make with sport, with football in this country.”