Day 3 at Camp Djabal comes to a close. The sad part is that we only have three full days left. We just had our meeting to make our final decisions on who will be the final fifteen, with five reserves, to represent Darfur United in Iraq come May. After going through player by player, not one of them was totally out of the question, so there were some tough decisions to make. What I’m not looking forward to is having the player meetings in the morning to give each player the news on whether they made the team or not. The last thing I came here to do was to put anyone down, but unfortunately not everyone can travel and play in the Viva World Cup games. Trust me, if we could have it our way, we would bring every last one of them as they all deserve a chance to represent Darfur in the tournament. On the other hand, whether they made the team or not, they are already a part of Darfur United by being one of the top five players in each camp in Eastern Chad. That says a lot considering these guys are the best 60 or so players out of around 280,000 refugees that make up the total populations of the camps. I can’t say I was anywhere near being in that small of a percentage for any team I’ve played on. So, at the end of the day, as it will hurt to send some of the players home of whom I’ve gotten to know over the course of these three days, I truly hope they can return to their camps proud that they had the chance to compete at the Viva World Cup, and proud that Darfur is now United, and that through soccer, this can provide hope for these thousands of people for a safe Darfur that they will one day be able to return to.
Once we’re passed the point of naming the team in the morning, Coach Mark and I will begin intense training sessions so we can leave knowing they will be set up for the next eight weeks leading up to the tournament. There are some great players mixed with gleaming personalities, and I can’t wait to spend more time with a smaller group where we can really teach them the game, and get to know them on a personal level. These next three days won’t just be about soccer. We are taking a group of twenty players from different refugee camps, and different tribes, away from their family and friends and will need them to act as one. This sounds like a difficult task, but from what I saw in try-outs, they are ready and willing to do whatever it takes to be Darfur United. I’m sure it will be an amazing thing to see unfold before me, and again, I cannot wait.
After our morning training session, we spent some time walking through the camp with our friends Rahma and Murtada, the two young boys who have made it their duty to help us during this project in whatever way possible. Rahma brought us to his house where we met his mother, grandmother and some other relatives. Gabriel was sure to tell them what a exceptional boy they have raised which made them smile proudly. Rahma also showed us his room, and I should have known, that it was covered with maps of Africa, Sudan, and the world in English and Arabic, there were books stacked on his desk, and of course posters of his favorite footballers. Again, such an amazing kid who will tell you right up front he just wants to keep learning. The day I met him, I told him I was a teacher and the first thing he said was, “Then you can teach me”. Unfortunately for Rahma, he has taught me more in these three days than I could have ever taught him.