So, to start, I am Ben Holden, a teacher from the North East of England with a passion for football. So when my good friend called to ask whether I’d be interested in the Darfur United project, I jumped at the chance and what an experience it has proved to be so far.
Firstly the lads, what a dedicated, humble and passionate group of men. They have absorbed every coaching point like a sponge and to witness the coaching that we have done be implemented on the pitch was an incredibly proud moment.
Their first ever match today was against the Northern Cypriot Republic of Turkey and was a baptism of fire to say the least. There was a clear gulf in class, our opponents were quick, composed and had two outstanding wingers who their centre midfielders played in behind our back four on numerous occasions to devastating effect. In addition to their playing class, the Northern Cypriot’s displayed integrity and respect during the game and conducted themselves impeccably. Good luck to them, I hope they go all the way in the competition.
So away from the field, the VIVA organisers have certainly kept us on our toes, their habit of withholding vital information has been an annoyance, in addition to the drivers we have been given, who so far have performed a total of 283 U-Turns, beeped their horns 2,284 times and accidentally ran 3 Kurdistani football supporters over and finally, during the pre-tournament press-conference, I had to tell the organiser how many subs each team was allowed to use!!
All in all, what a fantastic few days, despite a bout of food poisoning which according to Mark Hodson was most definitely due to the salad, this trip has been a life-changing experience for me. To see such unbridled hope and pride from these lads has put a lot of my life ‘stresses’ into context. I also know that I am now part of the Darfuri family and the players and supporters of Darfur United are part of mine.