On July 9, 2011, South Sudan gained independence, breaking away from Sudan after over 98% of the population voted in favour of a separation.
This followed years of civil war which claimed many lives, caused lots of damages and left others displaced.
While there are many names mentioned when the country’s independence story is told, the sporting world has only known one man: Manute Bol.
The late basketball player made his name in the NBA, where he remains one of the tallest players in the history of the sport.
A career which spanned over a decade saw him line up for the likes of Golden States Warriors and the Philadelphia 76ers.
He also played for the Washington Bullets and the Florida Beach Dogs before proceeding on retirement.
After calling time on his career, though, Bol involved himself in a lot of humanitarian and activism works, which culminated in him joining the fight for South Sudan’s independence.
Born in one of the poorest parts of South Sudan, he rose to become an icon and returned to give back to the country of his birth.
At a time when the country was wailing in civil war, he was one of those who used his voice and influence to fight for independence.
Bol gave South Sudan a global voice and served as a shining light to its citizens. Till date, whenever the country celebrates its independence, tributes are paid to him.
He may have died in 2010, almost a year before South Sudan gained its independence, but his involvement in the process will never be forgotten.
In 2011, when South Sudan marked its independence, a New York City-based design firm Zago, picked the image of Manute Bol to launch the ‘welcome193’ campaign.
“We chose Manute for his sheer size, literally for the shadow he cast, and for his ability as a basketball icon to connect the general population to a relatively unknown global news topic of South Sudan’s independence,” Gordon Kindlon, a creative lead for the group, said.
“Then as we went we learned that his heart and his dedication to South Sudan cast an even longer shadow than his lanky 7’6” body and we knew we were onto something.”
Bol is a colossus and he used his reputation and influence in the NBA to inspire an entire nation.