17 April 2017 01:25
Debutants Hilal El Obeid made history on Sunday night, after qualifying for the group stage of the Total CAF Confederation Cup on their maiden outing in a continental club championship.
Three goals scored by Ivoirian midfielder Cheick Moukoro on the half-hour mark, Mohamed Tahir in the 62nd minute and defensive midfielder Nasr Eldin Ahmed three minutes from time, saw the Sudanese outfit outclass Ports Authority of Gambia in the second leg of the 2nd 1/16th round, and progress 4-1 on aggregate.
On the domestic front, Hilal Obeid has suddenly metamorphosed into a force to reckon with in Sudanese football just few years in the top flight.
Nicknamed ‘Kordofan Lions’, their fourth place finish in the Sudanese Premier League in 2016, was a surprise to football lovers as it was their second season in the elite division. And to add to that, victories over traditional giants, El Hilal and El Merreikh generated talking points in the course of their journey to the top.
Hilal El Obeid was founded in the Central-West historic city of El Obeid in 1931, just a year after the creation of the famous Hilal of Omdurman, which is considered the ‘father’ of all Hilal-named clubs in Sudan. They share a common logo and identifiable colours.
After several unsuccessful attempts in the lower division, Hilal Obeid gained promotion to the Sudanese Premier League in 2015, breaking the jinx of the city’s no representation at the pinnacle of Sudanese football for more than two decades. Rivals Merreikh El Obeid had achieved that feat in 1995.
They finished sixth in their maiden season in the top tier, but the biggest leap came the following season (2016), under the stewardship of Coach Ibrahima Hussain and his able assistant, Khalid Bakhit, where they won 15 games at home. Their only home loss was to Ahly Shendy whilst Ahly Medani also tied them at their favourite grounds. They ended the 2016 season fourth with a stunning 71 points.
A performance that made headlines and capping it with home victories over Hilal and Merreikh, 4-2 and 5-2, respectively, which is unprecedented in the history of Sudanese football, for a team to beat the two giants in a season.
The ‘Kordofan Lions’ will later have a say in final of the Sudan Cup. And their presence in the final was a record in itself as it was the first time since 1995 that the decisive match was not between rivals Hilal and Merreikh. However, the lost 2-1 to Hilal in the one-off match played in Medani.
The success story and rise to fame of Hilal Obeid cannot be solely laid at the doorsteps of Ibrahima. There was also Farouk Jabra and his assistant Ahmed Alsayid, who built the team with new talented players and oversaw the technical direction during the first halve of the 2016 season.
On the pitch, players such as veteran Muhannad Al Tahis have been pivotal to the team’s surge. Tahir, who spent nearly a decade with Omdurman giants, Hilal, joined the ‘Kordofan Lions’ in the second halve of 2015 season and proved his he is far from the finish line the following season scoring some crucial goals and as many assists.
Another name worthy of mention is Ivorian playmaker Moukoro, also formerly on the books of Hilal. He joined Hilal in March 2016, but two months later was lacing his boots for Hilal Obeid after canceling his contract with the former.
Goalkeeper Zakaria Haydar has also been instrumental and his man-of-the-match performance against Merreikh in the semi-final of the Sudan Cup, where he saved three penalties has endeared him to followers of the club. Others are Sudanese Olympic team duo, central defender Bakri Bachir and forward Faid Mahir.
Come 2017 and the inclusions of Nasr Eldin Ahmed, Ghanaian Nelson Ladzagla (brest player in the 2014 season) and promising forward Abo Baker Girfa has made Hilal Obeid a serious force to reckon with.
Also, the Management have supported the technical team and ensured their consistency, whilst making sure their transfer targets become a reality.
However, the untold secret behind the success story of Hilal Obeid is the support of the
Government of the North Kordofan State, which has made the locals feel attached to the club. The Governor and individuals have invested so much, financially and in infrastructure among others to power the team to its current status.
The city now boasts of two stadiums of international standards built by the local Government to promote football and also ensures clubs can participate domestically and host international competitions.
And all these factors will play a major role in Hilal Obeid qualifying for the continental club championship for the first time.
At the preliminary stages of the Total CAF Confederation Cup, they overcame St. Michel of Seychelles before accounting for Sanga Balende of DR Congo 5-3 on penalties after a one-all tie at the 1/16th round.
“There are three reasons behind the success of Hilal Obeid in the Total CAF Confederation Cup. First, the board of Directors has set ambitions and targets, and I was the one who selected new players for the current season.
“Secondly, the players were carefully chosen, and well prepared so that they would be able to face challenges, as well as the cumulative experience they have has helped the team a lot.
“Thirdly, the massive support of our fans which has spurred the players to give out their best and achieve the results”, Ibrahima told CAFOnline.com.
The feat has thus earned them legendary status joining the likes of Omdurman duo, Hilal and Merreikh; Al Mourada from the capital, Khartoum; Hay Al Arab of Port Sudan from the East, Al Ahli and Ittihad Medani from Central Sudan and Al Amel of Atbara in Northern Sudan.