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Michael Aron

British Ambassador to Khartoum

Part of UK in Sudan

22nd September 2015 Khartoum

The positive power of sport

Premier Skills programme
Premier Skills programme

Eid Mubarak to everyone. I hope you all have a wonderful Eid with your families and friends. Eid is a time for people to come together in peace and I hope that this Eid will have a positive impact on the political climate here in Sudan, leading to reconciliation and a successful national dialogue.

However, this guest blog by Stuart Brown focuses not on politics but on sport. Stuart is currently in the UK watching the Rugby World Cup. I hope Wales live up to his expectations!

I am a great believer in the positive power of sport – it helps keep our children healthy, in Britain football has played a major role in tackling racism and the Paralympic Games have helped increase understanding of the many contributions people with disabilities can make to society. Sport is for everyone – men and women, children and adults from all over the world.

Kenya’s success in the recent World Athletics Championships demonstrates Africa’s leading role in international sport. Hopefully an all Sudanese final of the African Champions League between Merreikh and Hilal will be a boost to Sudanese morale – good luck to them both this weekend.

Guest blog by Stuart Brown, Second Secretary , British Embassy Khartoum

Friday night saw the kick off the Rugby World Cup. England 2015.

While millions across the world were glued to their televisions to watch England take on Fiji in the opening match, in Khartoum the event drew little attention. Lamenting the lack of rugby culture to my Sudanese friends, the place the blame firmly on my shoulders pointing to it as one of a long list of British values and traditions that failed to take root in Sudan after independence.

But if rugby never captured the imagination in Sudan, the same cannot be said of football. In Khartoum the “beautiful game” has an avid following. The capital’s top sides, Hilal and Merrikh play to packed crowds week-in week-out. Watching a recent Hilal game I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of loyal fans turning out to cheer their boys in blue. While audience based pyrotechnics are generally frowned upon at Premiership Games in the UK, in Sudan the hand held fireworks and improvised flame throwers all helped create a tremendous atmosphere.

In many countries sport is perceived as a male past time, and Sudan is no exception. This is not the way it has to be though and I was pleased to see women’s football in Sudan receiving recognition in the British press last week.

The British Council, in partnership with the English Premier League, has been working in Sudan since 2009 to support community youth football leagues as a means by which to productively engage youth and build the capacity of coaches in inclusive community development activities. With the aid of Premier skills youth across the country have benefited from outlets where they can constructively channel their abundance of energy and freely express their thoughts on the issues they face in society.

When the Premier Skills program first came to Sudan in 2009, 44 community coaches, 11 of whom were women, were trained in the first phase of the programme. Since then, the Premier Skills project has been supporting Sudanese coaches to run sports programmes for young people all over the country by applying what they have learnt from international coaches over the last six years. The programme stretched across several states in Sudan, such as Kassala, Darfur and Blue Nile; successfully reaching over 300,000 young people across Sudan and training over 1,000 coaches

Premier Skills programme
Premier Skills programme

The other sport that I have enjoyed watching in this city is wrestling. Heading out to Haj Yousef on a Friday afternoon to watch men of the Nuba mountains take to the ring in a contest of strength, cunning and dexterity . I understand that some of the wrestlers have hopes of testing their skills against the best in the world at the Olympics. I offer them my sincere best wishes that they achieve their dream.

Sudanese wrestlers
Sudanese wrestlers

To date Sudan has achieved only a single Olympic medal. Silver for Ismail Ahmed Ismail in the 800 meters at Beijing. In football Sudan lifted the African Cup of Nations in 1970 when the competition was hosted in Khartoum but has registered little international success since then. Hopes of international success this year rest on the shoulders of Sudan’s football giants and I wish both Hilal and Merrikh the best in there forthcoming CAF Champions League fixtures.

And what about rugby. Does the oval ball have a future in Sudan? Because it does have a history here… I would certainly not want to give readers the impression that rugby has never graced the banks of the Nile. The following is from the memoirs of a British serviceman in the 1930s:

“A pleasant surprise awaits those used to playing Rugby in the tropics when they arrive at the ground of the Arabians in Khartum North. Instead of the hard bare surface usually found in hot countries here is a soft grass patch that “makes falling a pleasure.” This excellent state of affairs is achieved by irrigation, the ground being flooded with Nile water once each week. The grass is coarse and about six inches high, but it covers the whole ground. The setting is thoroughly tropical, there being date and dom palms on three sides of the playing pitch and a cotton patch along the fourth.”

I don’t know where the “soft grass pitch” of Khartoum North lies today, but I hope to find it one day.

1 comment on “The positive power of sport

  1. Dear Mr
    Am very happy to write a good things for my country and I see u are follow more activity in Sudan
    Please reverse the outlook for the world and Britain in particular, and try to save the Sudanese people from suffering in all ways of life
    You are know any things
    Please put any political issue out said and help my country
    We have a deep friendship between Sudan &britash

Comments are closed.

About Michael Aron

Mr Michael Aron has been Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the Republic of Sudan since August 2015. After studying Arabic at Leeds University and before joining the FCO in 1984 Mr…

Mr Michael Aron has been Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the Republic of Sudan since August 2015.

After studying Arabic at Leeds University and before joining the FCO in 1984 Mr Aron worked as an English teacher in El-Damer Secondary School in northern Sudan for two years. Since then his FCO career has been focussed on the Middle East and North Africa, including as Ambassador to Kuwait, Iraq and most recently Libya.

On his appointment as Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the Republic of Sudan, Mr Aron said:

“I am delighted to be returning to Sudan after 30 years. I have very fond memories of the charm, hospitality and generosity of the Sudanese people I met and worked with and I look forward to renewing friendships, developing new relationships and working with all parties to help Sudan overcome the challenges it faces.”