Abo and Mohamed Eisa were just seven and nine years old respectively when they left Sudan with their parents for a new life in Britain.
“We actually have a lot of good memories of our childhood there,” Abo told FIFA.com. “Sudan’s a very poor country as everyone knows, but as kids we only understood that after leaving. All we knew growing up is that we had family around and we were able to go out and play. We felt we had what we needed.”
The brothers nonetheless thrived after switching continents, forging professional careers in English football and, more recently, earning a joint call-up for their national team.
With the extended Eisa family still living in Khartoum, and Sudan scheduled to kick off their 2026 FIFA World Cup™ qualifying journey with two home qualifiers, it should have made for an emotional and triumphant return.
Sadly, the civil war that is devastating this already-impoverished African nation prevented the matches from being played on Sudanese soil. But while neutral Libya hosted instead, denying the team home advantage for a demanding double-header against Togo and Congo DR, Sudan nonetheless emerged with four priceless points.
That impressive haul has left Kwesi Appiah’s side trailing Senegal only on goal difference at the top of Group B, encouraging dreams of a first-ever FIFA World Cup – and a much-needed morale-boost for their nation’s people.
“It’s been a fantastic start,” enthused Abo. “We’re very happy with how it’s gone. Our country has never made it to a World Cup before and, with everything that’s going on, it’s been a good way to give people in the country something to be happy and hopeful about.
“Even though the games were in Libya, there was a lot of Sudanese supporters over there to cheer for us and it was beautiful to see the passion they have. They treated us like celebrities, and you can see how much football means to them.
“It was a big deal for me and my brother to play for our national team – and play for those people. It’s something we’ve wanted to do for a long time, and although we’d been close before, injuries and whatnot had always got in the way. I’m so glad we finally got to do it, and that we could make our debuts together.”
Abo, in fact, came on as a substitute for his older brother, who had earlier slotted home a penalty just 17 minutes into that maiden appearance as Sudan drew 1-1 with Togo.
Even better was to follow three days later, when the siblings started alongside each other in attack, helping their team to a hard-fought 1-0 victory against another higher-ranked opponent in Congo DR.
“That was special, standing there together singing the national anthem,” Abo reflected. “That was probably the only time I got quite emotional about it all. It was special doing all of this with my brother too, and I think we linked up quite well in the game. I play on the left, and he likes to drift out to that side from the centre.
“The other players were great with us too. Most of them play in Sudan but me and my brother speak Arabic from having grown up there, so communication was no problem – and Sudanese people are pretty easy-going anyway.
“The main thing for us was to just to bring our experience from England and add to what the team has already. And to win! We knew how important it was to get some points on the board early. Our dad managed to get over to Libya to see us play too, and that made the whole thing even more special.”
The only missing ingredient, amid emotional anthem renditions, debuts, goals and a vital qualifying win, was that Sudanese homecoming the brothers still crave. When conflict calms, and that finally happens, their father won’t be short on company in cheering the Eisas on.
“We have family all over Sudan and, trust me, they’ll all come along once we’re able to play at home again,” said Abo, who has made a happy habit of scoring spectacular goals for his club side, Grimsby Town.
“I can’t wait for that because, although it’s already been great, going back to Khartoum where we grew up, playing for our country with all of our Sudanese family there, would mean a lot. We’re all hoping and praying for that to be possible.”
The team’s next two qualifiers are, however, on the road, with Mauritania and neighbours South Sudan providing the opposition next June. And while Sudan have never before made it to a World Cup, the combination of their fine start and the four additional places on offer to African teams for 2026 is allowing the Eisas to dream.
“We’re definitely aiming to qualify, no question about that,” Abo said decisively. “Our coach has been there before (Appiah led his native Ghana to the 2014 finals in Brazil) and he’s told us we have a really good squad and a genuine chance of making it. That hasn’t always been the case for Sudan in the past, but there’s a feeling that this time is different.
“We’ve made the start we needed to and now just want to make the most of the opportunity we have. My brother’s 29 already, I’m 27, so we’re not getting any younger and this might be our best chance. And it would be unbelievable if we could do it. Playing for your country is a dream, but playing in a World Cup is the biggest dream of all.”