There are some moments in your life that stay with you forever. It could be the day of your marriage, the birth of your child, the passing of a loved one or a moment of achievement……..Moments in time that will always reproduce a feeling so tangible and deep every time you recall them, that they will stay with you forever.

I was fortunate enough today to have one of those moments……and it was a moment of pure joy!

With the blazing heat making walking in a straight line a difficult task between the hours of 8am and 4pm, we made the sensible decision to start our training from 5.30am – 7.30am with a second session from 3.30pm till dusk.

Our Driver was having a hard time shaking off his own slumber this morning, so we arrived at camp right at 5.15am, a little later than we would have liked, but we were still surprised to see no one in sight as we pulled up to our classroom base HQ located next to the field!

Undeterred Coach Brian and I proceeded to set up the “field” for the morning’s session of small-sided games.

Now most of you know that we are filming the progress of Darfur United for a future documentary and I assure you, you will find it hard to believe that the proceeding experience was not expertly scripted…… seemingly out of nowhere, through a cloud of dust came the entire group of refugee players in synchronized harmony, running to the field from their two base camp locations…A sight to behold in itself, but even more amazing as they then proceeded to run in unison around the field for ten minutes, moving and clapping with a symphonic rhythm that took the breath away……It was mesmerizing….but not “the moment!”

Organizing the players has thus far been relatively straight forward, with them working cooperatively to cope with my non existent Arabic instruction…..I have tried my hand at a few words and numbers to try to match their effort with my language and if nothing else it’s provided some comic relief for the recipients of my non native tongue!

At approximately 5.50am this morning as four 5 v 5 games kicked off under the dim lit sky of Camp Djabal, I stood alone in the middle of the pitch and experienced that sensation of a “lifetime moment.” My face had a grin from ear to ear that was stretching my cheeks beyond capacity…… but the thing that was most unique this time, was that I was smiling inside…….It was a feeling beyond happiness. I was so happy that these young men were playing the game that they love, the game I love, without the fear and misery of the journey they have had forced upon them.…I was so happy that Gabriel and his team had been able to pull off this miraculous feat of organization, commitment and at times sheer bloody mindedness to make this impossible dream come to life…….and most of all I was so happy that I could stand on this sand pitch 12,000 miles away from home to be with these boys and “our team” Darfur United with the love and support of my family and friends back home and across the world. I can’t thank them and you all enough for this opportunity! “Darfur United”….we do what it says in the name!

Mark Hodson
Darfur United Coach