After a 32-year absence since the 1976 finals in Ethiopia, The Desert Hawks resurfaced in Ghana for the 2008 edition, then missed the next two editions, before making a strong appearance in 2012, co-hosted by Gabon and Equatorial, where they reached the last eight.
During the 2012 edition, there were a number of players from the Class of 2008 bring together two generations in the history of Sudan football.
A third generation has emerged in 2016 as the Desert Hawks take inspirations from the three generations in a bid to reach next year’s finals in Gabon. To reach that dream, they have to overcome Sierra Leone in a crucial Group I clash on Saturday, 4 June 2016 in Freetown.
For some members of the team, they are seeking to distinguish themselves with an enviable record of three appearances in the finals of the AFCON. Others are eyeing a second taste of the biggest football gathering on the continent, whilst the rest are eyeing historic first time participation.
Sudan coach Mohamed Abdallah ‘Mazda’ announced a squad for the match against Sierra Leone with the three generations represented signalling experience, ambition and enthusiasm for the must win clash in Freetown.
Talented and stylish left-foot playmaker, Mohannad El Tahir is the most experienced in the squad having played both in 2008 and 2012, and is seeking to extend his record with a third appearance next year in Gabon.
Players such as goalkeeper Akram Al Hadi Saleem of Ahli Khartoum, defender Amir Kamal of El Merreikh, El Hilal midfield duo Bisha and Nazar Hamid and forwards Ramadan Ajab (El Merreikh) and Mudather El Taieb ‘Careca’ all of whom played in 2012 form the backbone of the team seeking to reach Gabon. They represent the golden age of Sudan football after the 1970 squad that won the African title on home soil, largely due to that fact that it was the only squad that reached the knockout zone.
The new generation aiming to write their own history in Sudan football folklore include players such as Merreikh defender Ali Jaafar who has shone this season and striker Mohamed ‘Ankaba’ Abdel Moneim.
“The first and most important thing is that the game against Sierra Leone. It is our only and last hope to keep our chances alive in the qualifiers. So we must do our best against them. There is a great desire to achieve the honour of playing in the finals of the AFCON for the first time. It is the first target for all the players, because the greatest success for any player in Africa is to play at the AFCON finals,” said Jaafar.
Hilal pair of Atahar Al Tahir, the youngest in the squad and Abu Aagla are some other notable faces from the third generation. The two players were members of the Sudan Olympic team at the African Games in Brazzaville, Congo in 2015.
“My dream is to qualify for the AFCON finals with Sudan. We want to write our names in history by participating at the finals for the first time. I wish to do my best for Sudan and for coming generations. I hope to put in my maximum effort to restore smiles on the faces of the people of Sudan,” Atahar said.