As one of as the best national coaches of sudan Football National Team Muhammad ‘Mazda’ Abdallah faces a new challenge which is to lead the supposed dream team to the finals in Morocco in 2015. An unprecedented stumbling blocks await him as The Super Eagles of Nigeria and The Bafana Bafana of South Africa in the same group with sudan contend for a place in the finals, while Muhammad Abdallah “Mazda” answers critics in an interview with cafonline.com reassessing the group’s attendants and Sudan’s chances of qualifying for the finals again after 2008 and 2012 finals respectively.
How do you assess the group in which Sudan was placed along with Nigeria and South Africa?
According to the CAF classification, Sudan has been listed among the 21st national teams exempted from playing the preliminaries. When the group stage arrived, we were pigeonholed in the third level while Nigeria was classified in the first level, South Africa in the third level and Congo Brazzaville in the fourth level so that the group may comprise four national sides. It is doubtless a strong group though a reading of all the groups would reveal that it is still a reasonable one. The classification is already known. Our past experience indicates that we can compete for one of the two qualification tickets.
How will you set up the Sudanese national squad for facing sides with better ranking?
We have drawn up an ambitious program for the matches of the group. However, some conditions, such as the world cup program and the CAF champions league matches, have affected our implementation of that program. We are not the only ones suffering from these conditions. All national sides that have clubs participating in the champions league matches have suffered from them. In Sudan, for instance, Al Hilal FC has represented us in the first group of the champions league and yet a considerable number of the national team players are from that club. Another problem that faces our preparations is represented in the programming of the local premier league and Sudan Cup. There has been a long period of cessation after the first round of the season, even before the world cup. This is added to the one-month respite of the world cup itself. Since last week, we opted for allowing clubs to play the premier league matches because this would be beneficial for the national squad. We have also been keen on following up the premier league matches and the African matches of Al Hilal. Al-Merreikh players have moreover benefited from their participation in the CECAFA tournament that was held in Rwanda and their subsequent collection of the trophy of the tournament. These factors have coerced us into canceling the first stage of preparations for the national team which were scheduled to take place during the period 20 July – 20 August.
How many friendly matches have you scheduled within the preparatory program?
The preparatory program of the national team totally hinges on the main period from 23-21 August during which the squad will play an away match against Zambia. We expect this to be a strong match. Before this match, we will hold a short camp in Addis Ababa and then return to Khartoum to play our first match in the group against South Africa.
How will you deal with the difference of professional players of the other two teams in the group which are of higher ranking?
It would be beneficial if we had an opportunity for a longer period of preparation to raise the players’ fitness level by playing successive matches within short periods. We have already succeeded in arranging for a match against Zambia and we are aspiring to more than one match. We are hoping to play against more than one side similar to the teams of the group. We have considered that Zambia is similar to South Africa and Nigeria. We still have time to arrange for another friendly tie. Our greatest obsession at present is prevalence of funds for completing our preparatory program. Even the Zambia match will require financial expenditure. We have talked a lot about the issue of funds and we have passed on our budget to the official parties. We hope to be able to expedite our program in order to finalize the required preparations.
What are the obstacles that face execution of your preparatory program?
Funds only. We have so far succeeded in drawing up a program for the football season that coincides with interest of the national team in respect of raising the players’ level of physical fitness. Since we were unable to raise the level of fitness through a long-term program during a camp, we can still raise it through the handy premier league program. We have two teams that compete at the continental level, Al Hilal, and at the regional level, Al-Merreikh, in CECAFA. If Al Hilal proceeds in the African championship, it can raise the fitness level of its players in a commendable manner.
What are the true chances for Sudan to qualify in its strong group?
We have reasonable chances for qualifying. The players we have selected are not lacking in experience; they have participated at the international level at numerous occasions whether in CECAFA or the CAF champions league or at the level of the national team itself. They have played a large number of international matches. Even the new players have gained considerable experience at friendly and competitive international matches with the national team. We will never despair. We will fight, As long as there is a chance for qualification, we will fight for it.
We are fully aware of the obstacles we are facing. And yet we have managed to qualify for the finals of the African Nations Cup when we were bogged down by greater obstacles. We will ultimately fight for collecting one of the cards that qualify for the finals in Morocco, God willing.
What do you expect the face off with South Africa to be like?
This will be a preliminary match in the contest. Its importance comes from the fact that we are in a group where we have to collect one of the two qualification tickets in order to pass through to the finals. We have to win in our own ground. We have great respect for South Africa. They have a good and strong premier league and they are more professional. They have professional players outside the continent. We have to be extremely wary with the South African side, both as individuals and as a group.
Has the inclusion of the Congo in the group in lieu of Rwanda prompted you to amend your arrangements?
The Congo team is ranked fourth at the African level and yet the team is still familiar to us, We have played against them in the previous qualifiers. Its presence in the group makes the competition fiercer because it will not be easy to beat Congo whether at home or away. They will make the competition more exciting.
How will you create harmony between the players of Al Hilal and Al-Merreikh despite the fierce competition between them so that they can give their best for the national team?
We have previous experience in shaping the national team out of Al Hilal and Al-Merreikh players. Some of the national team players have even been in other clubs and after their stars shone in the national side, Al Hilal and Al-Merreikh hastened to enlist them. We may very well assert that the national team is a benefactor for these players. All the players of Al Hilal and Al-Merreikh are now eager to join the national squad whenever we summon them. Some of them have even communicated with us displaying their wish to join the squad because they are aware of the benefits the national squad can offer them in their career. The players of Al Hilal and Al-Merreikh in the national team are in high spirits and are extremely eager to take Sudan to the finals in Morocco.
Confederation of African Football (CAF) News
Support InfoStride News' Credible Journalism: Only credible journalism can guarantee a fair, accountable and transparent society, including democracy and government. It involves a lot of efforts and money. We need your support. Click here to Donate