Exhausting. Up at 3:30am and out at the camp by 5. The players were all already up and getting ready for the trip to N’Djamena, for sure the farthest any of them have been from home.
Two players, Mohamed and Mohamed, had to leave earlier than the others because we could not all fit into one plane. They were nervous and talked to me, wanting to know why they were not traveling with the team. I explained and assured them everything would be alright. The older Mohamed thanked me and said that they wanted to talk with me because they could trust me. They feared that they were being sent home and would not be with the team on the journey. My only worry was that they would not be flying straight to the capital but would be making a stop in the scary Abeche airport. I’ve been through that airport dozens of times, and I still stress every time because it is crowded and pushy and a bit unhinged. It’s one of a kind.
As soon as they landed in Abeche, the older Mohamed called me and said that they were fine. Then the call dropped; after a few more attempts and drops, we both gave up calling each other. I called our UNHCR logistics friend, Amos, and asked him to look after our guys; he said he would. I did get two more calls from Mohamed. First he said that they did not know what was happening, so I called Amos again and asked for someone to go see them. On the second call, they told me everything was fine.
With the rest of the team and delegation, we took a direct flight from Goz Beida to N’Djamena. None of the players admitted to being nervous, and some did look relaxed and unaffected, but others were between wide-eyed and excited. When I asked Sadam if he was ready to go, he said, “I am ready to go anywhere, anywhere,” and he laughed warmly.
The flight was uneventful, as far as any flight sickness or even possible panic attacks that I slightly feared. The eighteen-seater plane hit the accelerator on the runway, and as we all felt that rush from the speed and our bodies being pushed in to the seat, the players started raising their hands in the air and yelling, “UNITED, UNITED!”
We landed in the NDJ airport around 5pm and visited the UNHCR office from there. The players were greeted and briefed on their accommodations and food. They are divided in to two groups, nine of them staying at a hotel run by Catholic nuns and the other seven at, if I understood right, an English academy school and hotel. They looked tired, relaxed, and happy to have an opportunity to rest and eat, after the longest journey of their life.
In a day, they will cross oceans and continents. The Viva World Cup begins on June 4th, and our first game is against North Cyprus. Wow.
The team travels from refugee camp Djabal to the capital of Chad. The first of many legs that will land them in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan for the Viva World Cup.