Sudan will play host to host Sierra Leone at the Halim-Shaddad Stadium on Sunday, 14 June 2015 in the Group I AFCON 2017 day one clash, with coach Mohammed ‘Mazda’ Abdullah targeting a third qualification for the showpiece event.
’Mazda’, who previously succeeded in piloting a squad of local players to qualifier for two editions of the Africa Cup of Nations, 2008 (Ghana) and 2012 (Gabon and Equatorial Guinea), is aiming for a third appearance.
“The challenge this time lies in our failure to execute the preparatory program we had mapped out and agreed upon with the coaches of Al Hilal and Al Merreikh, who provide the majority of the national team players. We will engage the match against Sierra Leone without any preparatory matches.
“We will on rely on our experience and the harmony the players have acquired from previous international matches,” said Mazda, one-time coach of the Sudan U-20 team, adding that the indigenes have the ability to handle the national team when given the chance.
“Whenever given the chance, Sudanese coaches have proven to be both plucky and competent. Coaches such as Adeeba, Technical Advisor Hamdan Hamad and Assistant Mohsen Syed have managed to lead the Olympic team to the finals of the All African Games 2015 for the first time in the history of Sudan.
“Coach Mubarak Salman also guided the youth team to the CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup in Kenya in 2013. Burhan Tiya won the CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup in 2007 and Farouk Gabra’s squad were both a strong and convincing side at the Arab National Teams Championship. My assistant, Ismail Atta Al-Manan and the technical staff have qualified twice for the AFCON and we are still doing our best,” said Mazda, who is a strong advocate of indigenous coaches.
In sequel to that, the Sudanese Football Association (SFA) has placed great confidence in Mazda. His first tenure lasted 2004-2009. He was reinstated in 2010 and Sudanese football has record some modest successes under his watch.
The Sudanese national is largely dominated by players who ply their trade in the domestic championship, compared to other national teams’ squads with a large pool of European based players.
“We have sufficient experience in psyching the players psychologically for major international matches. We are always striving with the challenge of helping the players improve as well as their technical abilities,” noted Mazda, who remains in iconic figure at Sudanese giants, Merreikh thanks to his eye-popping performances during his hey days.
Last year, he masterminded a huge upset against then African champions, Nigeria in the qualifiers for the 2015 edition held in Equatorial Guinea few months ago. As if by coincidence, the Desert Hawks find themselves in the same group as current African champions, Cote d’Ivoire. Hosts Gabon completes the quartet in Group I.
“We beat Egypt, then African champions in 2008 and 2010. We are emerged victors against Zambia barely four months after their historic triumph in 2012. At home, we have managed good results against teams ranked above us namely Tunisia, Mali amongst others. We have come to know this craggy road very well,” he added.
Mazda is keen on inking an unblemished record as a local coach at the helm of the national team. He is also aspiring for a third qualification to write a new chapter for himself and Sudanese football in general.
Additional reporting by CAF