The look on their faces was like they had just gotten off of a roller coaster, wide-eyed and wider smiles. Immediately after getting out of the car, they came over and hugged us, somehow knowing that we, this odd looking group of westerners, had to be the ones coming to get Darfur United running.
They were the five players from refugee camp Farchana, and they had just gotten off of their first airplane ride ever. A little plane took them from their camp, across the desert, and landed on another strip of dirt. I am sure they were excited to be back on the ground and even more excited to get going with Darfur United try-outs. They looked ready, right then and there!
By early afternoon, eight of the twelve players’ delegations from the Darfuri refugee camps in eastern Chad had arrived at Camp Djabal. We visited their temporary homes, where they were all gathered. UNHCR set up tents at two locations, and we contracted a refugee cook and camp restaurant owner to provide them with three daily meals. Fanta, our UNHCR main contact here for Darfur United, made sure that the young men got the food they needed and at the right price for us. Negotiations lasted more than an hour!
We had a chance to talk with all the players, informally but then also as a group, to share about the program for the next six days. There are all kinds of personalities, from the serious and shy to the loud and cocky. There are also obvious leaders, who speak to their piers with power and conviction. We don’t yet know how all of this will translate to their play on the field.
Later in the afternoon, when it got a little cooler, some guys from Camp Djabal started playing a game on the large field, where try-outs will take place starting tomorrow. These were the guys that did not make the top-five from their camp, so they cannot try-out for Darfur United. Mark was impressed with the level of play, and he is excited to see what the top-five from all twelve camps will bring to the field.
Before the sun rises, we will head out to Djabal. Their tests begin as soon as we get there. We will see who got there on time and is ready to start kicking the ball for a place on Darfur United. It will for sure be more exciting than a roller-coaster!
Exhausted but amazed,