Sixteen young men, all refugees from Darfur now living in camps close to the Chad-Sudan border, will be traveling with us to Iraqi Kurdistan to compete in an international soccer tournament, the Viva World Cup. There’s nobody around to pinch me.
Those sixteen Darfur United players are right now sleeping in tents that were just hit by strong, sand filled winds in refugee camp Djabal. In a few days, they will arrive in a big city and go to a five-star hotel with a big blue pool adorned with dolphins. This is surreal.
As I get to know the players better, the more I like them. We created i-ACT and began coming to these camps to “put a face on the numbers.” This team is the faces and the heart of its players, and they feel a responsibility to represent all of their people. As Sulieman, the natural team leader, has said repeatedly, “Darfur United is not just on a t-shirt. We are united!”
We had originally decided to take fifteen players, but after four of the selected fifteen were disqualified from participating because of not presenting the right refugee identifications, we had five alternates that had been practicing with the team, just in case of something like this. Instead of having to pick four of the five, we decided to add one more spot.
I feel sad for the guys that cannot go: Musa, Nouradin, Issa, and Abdelah. There’s nothing that could be done, especially in such a short period of time. We needed to send in our delegation names to the tournament, or everyone would be left out.
The alternates, though, are all amazing and each add something special to the team. The five that are joining the other eleven are Ismail, Mahamat D, Saleh, Sulieman, and Yaya.
We can’t forget Adam, the other refugee that will be a part of the Darfur United delegation. He’s the perfect addition.