We started the day way too early, waking up at four. The roosters were upset because we disturbed them.
We scheduled a car at five, so we could get to the camps before sunrise and then get in some good hours before the blistering heat becomes unbearable. We did not want the Darfur United try-outs to be an extreme endurance, life-risking event.
There were things that needed setting up before the players arrived. DarU banners were hung; cones were set up by the coaches, Mark and Brian; t-shirts were arranged for distribution; and cameras were readied.
Then, from the east and as if coming right out of the sun, the players came jogging in formation and doing drills, as if they had been together training and playing for years—not just having met a day or two before. They were close to sixty refugee soccer players, and they kept doing their jogging and drills around and around the field. Three Americans and one Brit were impressed.
They stopped and formed circles, with a player-leader directing the others on stretching.
All players were brought in to the community center, Darfur United’s headquarters for the next few days. Coach Mark told them about the day ahead, being united, and having fun. They come from twelve camps that are the homes to over 280,000 refugees. They were all picked as the best five from each of those camps. They should be proud.
Fifteen of these young men will be Darfur United.
It was time to play, and for the coaches to observe. So many good players!
Some of them seem particularly focused on being one of the fifteen.
After a few rounds of games, the players were called back in to the DarU headquarters. They were registered and photographed, and some got to talk to James about their experiences.
Our good friend, Adam, helped to translate for coach and players, and we then walked with him home to see his family and talk some more. Adam is a special man. His philosophy is caring for others, and through this, experiencing life. He has beautiful children. His oldest boy wants to be a human rights lawyer, and now Raya, his oldest girl, wants the same. I would not expect any thing less from Adam’s kids.
At nine in the morning, we headed back to the UNHCR compound, to do some work. It was only nine! It felt like such a long, amazing, and hard to believe day. Emotionally surreal. We go back at 3:30 in the afternoon for another session of try-outs and to be with friends.