WHAT IS DARFUR UNITED?
Darfur United is an all-refugee soccer team and youth academy made up of Darfuri refugees living in camps in Eastern Chad. Not only is Darfur United an opportunity for the refugees to represent their people and play, it is also a movement – a movement to bring hope, inspiration, and joy to the displaced people of Darfur.
Throughout the camps, soccer is the uniting passion. Even though rivalries exist over who the best team and best players are, just about everyone loves to join in a game. It was this spirit that inspired the formation of an official team to compete at the 2012 Viva World Cup in Iraqi Kurdistan. It was not only the team’s first international competition, but where they scored the first goal for Darfur. In 2013, the first Darfur United Soccer Academy will launch in Camp Mile, giving both boys and girls the opportunity to improve their skills, play together, and work towards a unified men and women’s team.
WHAT IMPACT WILL DARFUR UNITED HAVE?
Beyond the 16 players who played in the Viva World Cup, the impact of Darfur United continues to ripple through the camp with the Darfur United Soccer Academy. When the news of the project first reached one of the camps, a representative said “Now we are a part of the world.”
This response is indicative of the positivity and hope that seeing a team of their own play internationally has on the refugee population. Not only in the camps, but also people around the world who had never heard of Darfur are now gaining interest in the story behind this unlikely team – and more will follow as the story unfolds through social media and a feature documentary.
The tournament was only the beginning to the Darfur United project. The Soccer Academy, born from players who competed at the Viva World Cup, will give girls and boys an equal opportunity to learn skills, practice drills, and participate in a league. Volunteers will keep the field and clubhouse clean and organized. Coaches will teach and help the youth grow into men’s and women’s teams who represent all the hope and dreams that Darfuris have for their future — a stronger Darfur.
WHO IS BEHIND THE PROJECT?
i-ACT, based in Redondo Beach, California, is the leading organization working on the ground in refugee camps in Eastern Chad, with established relationships and partners since 2005. An expedition team visits the camps twice a year, and maintains internet connectivity and communication year-round. Darfur United is coached or organized by Mark Hodson of Evolution Soccer and Manhattan Beach Sand & Surf Soccer Club. The Academy is supported by “Change the world. It just takes cents.”, Genocide No More, Save Darfur in Redding, CA, and H.O.P.E (Helping Other People Everywhere).