The Darfur United players are back home in the refugee camps. I like to imagine them sitting under a tree, telling a crowd of kids about their experience at the Viva World Cup and then going out to the field with a ball and playing. I am sure there are many little refugee boys and girls that can now dream about competing in a big stage–in big stadiums and representing their people, maybe in a World Cup or the Olympics.
Today, the Olympics start in London, and I can’t wait to dive in. From when I was a young boy, I remember the start of the Olympics as a magical moment. Getting together as a family to watch athletes representing their country, their community, and themselves in heated competition over two weeks in the summer was special in so many ways. I rooted for the USA and for Mexico (I lived in Mexico from age 5 to 15), but I was also enthralled by the underdog stories, as I got to hear about the athletes’ lives and the sometimes harrowing road they traveled to compete in front of the world.
Will some of those refugee boy and girls that are being born in isolated camps in Chad, living in harsh conditions and away from the land where their parents were born, someday get to compete representing their nation and their people? There are so many obstacles they ate up against, but obstacles are meant to be jumped over–or rammed through.
Take the inspiring story of Lopez Lomong. When still a young boy, his village was attacked by rebels, and he was kidnapped and held captive along with other boys. He saw many of them die and decided to escape. He lived ten years in a refugee camp, where he experienced harsh conditions. He loved playing soccer in the camp. When he was sixteen, he became one of the Lost Boys of Sudan that were relocated to the United States. With his adopted family in his adopted country, he began running, and he will now be running for the United States–but also for his family and all people of South Sudan.
It is a great story, but it’s also a very unlikely story, which not many, if any, of the Darfuri refugee children in the camps we visit will have a chance to experience. It is not likely that there will be another big relocation of refugees, as happened with the Lost Boys. It shouldn’t necessarily be the goal, either. A better goal would be to create opportunity for the entire displaced population, allowing young children–and potential future Olympic athletes–a chance to grow and thrive in a peaceful and nurturing environment.
It’s going to be a blast to watch the Olympics. It’s a huge world party, but not everyone is invited to this or future ones.