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Sunday, June 17, 2007
Sudan end 32-year African Nations Cup wait

KHARTOUM, June 17 (Reuters) - Hundreds of screaming and dancing Sudanese fans welcomed their national football team at Khartoum airport on Sunday with the country set to take part in its first African Nations Cup finals in 32 years.

Sudan beat Seychelles 2-0 in an away match on Saturday and even if these lose their last qualifying match against Group Four leaders Tunisia, they are effectively through to the finals in Ghana next year as one of the top three group runners up.

'This is not just a win for the team, but for all of the people of Sudan,' defender Khalid Hassan Ali told Reuters, as the players emerged one by one to be engulfed by drumming, singing fans.

Sudan, embroiled in multiple civil wars since independence, last qualified for the African Nations Cup in 1976.

'I'm so happy I want to scream out 'I am Sudanese' and die for my country,' said student Abdel Salaam el-Sir.

'Normally the media talk about politics, but now this is a different side to Sudan, and we are proud,' said al-Rashid al-Tayyib.

Sudan were champions in 1970 and the Confederation of African Football was founded in Khartoum in 1957.

Riot police fought off fans to allow players, who were carried aloft by dozens of people, to get into waiting cars.

'I was so happy I broke the television,' screamed one labourer, draped in the Sudanese flag and shaking his shoulders in a triumphant traditional dance.

'There are no words to describe this feeling.'




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