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TORIT - 16 Feb 2021

SPLM organizes football tourney in Magwi despite Covid-19

The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), South Sudan’s ruling party, has organized a two-week inter-Payam football tournament in Eastern Equatoria’s Magwi County. 

The tournament, which kicked off on Monday, registered ten football clubs from all the Payams. 

Last week the governor of Eastern Equatoria State, Louis Lobong Lojore, issued a statement directing all organized forces and citizens to implement the recently announced measures to curb COVID-19 in the country. This came amidst citizens ignoring the new measures which include a ban on all sporting, religious and political events including Sunday mass, Friday prayers for Muslims, funerals, and wedding ceremonies.

Siro Silvio Ewak, SPLM state assistant secretary for culture, information, and communication says the peace tournament will bring communities together and address grudges that exist between them. 

“Today (Monday) is a tournament for 2021. People are very many at the freedom square in Magwi. We recorded ten teams from ten Payams, we have Magwi, Omeyo, Agoro, Iwire, Lobone, Obbo, Owinykibul, Pajok Palwar, and Pogee Payam,” according to Siro. “They have all converged in the town of Magwi to show solidarity and coexistence as the people of one county.”

Magwi County, Siro said, has had issues of boundaries and resource conflicts necessitating the bringing of the communities through sports. 

The party's official said despite a huge crowd participating and attending the tournament, Covid-19 measures are being upheld.

“You know, when you see the people around, they are putting on facemasks, people are well educated and we have people around who are monitoring. We are also adhering to the orders of the government, earlier we told everybody to come with face masks,” Siro said. 

German Charles Ojok, the secretary-general of the SPLM party in Eastern Equatoria State says it is an opportunity to preach peace and keep the youth busy through sports.

“This is an opportunity for us to come and preach the word of peace, unity, forgiveness, and understanding to the people of Magwi County and it was done so. The people are so happy, they are so joyful,” Ojok said. “Over a thousand people are on the playground here watching their brothers who are playing and everyone is so excited which is so good for the party of SPLM. It is the mission of the party to bring people together, engage the youth to be busy and this is one of the ways youth can be busy."

Okullo Peter, the president of Magwi Football Association, says all possible consultations were done with authorities in the area before approval.

“The ban letter came when we were already in the process, the organization was on, and after receiving the letter we had to follow other procedures of asking the authorities if they can allow our activities. We explained to them the objective of the games and they understood very well so they gave us the go-ahead but with conditions that there should be no fans, but now we cannot stop fans from going to the field,” Okullo said. 

He added that they are working to ensure everyone is wearing a mask and also get handwashing equipment from organizations to support the tournament.

Odiya Mensa, a player for Omeyo Payam, acknowledged that the players are at risk of Covid-19. 

"You know, when you tackle in football, you cannot tackle without touching your fellow player, so it becomes difficult. Whenever we are playing, it is very difficult to take care of ourselves, you find body contact is there,” Odiya said. “My advice to other players of the other Payams is that we know these games are organized for peace so we should avoid chaos. Whenever we are in the field, we need to play football that shows a sign of peace.”

In the opening match, Omeyo Payam beat Magwi Payam 1-0, while the second game played this morning ended 2-0 in favor of Obone who played against Agoro Payam.