It was almost a year ago that I first spoke with Gabriel and KTJ about joining i-ACT to help develop and implement the Darfur United Soccer Academy. They enthusiastically explained to me how the idea for the Academy came to be following the success of Darfur United men’s team, how they wanted the Academy to be as structured and well developed as any soccer academy or camp in the U.S., and how they wanted to make sure that the refugees would be trained to lead the Academy and be given total control and ownership to make it their own.
I had a lot of work ahead of me! But coming this October, thanks to tons of staff teamwork and collaborative efforts from volunteers and donors, I get to join Gabriel in putting our yearlong discussions, planning and aspirations into action – I get to see the Academy come to life.
Here’s how it’s going to happen: Camp Mile will host the first Darfur United Soccer Academy, and when we head there in October, our priority will be to recruit and train two men and two women head coaches to lead and manage the Academy. It will be an intense week of training, but also joining Gabriel and I on the trip to train the coaches will be ex-professional women’s soccer player, experienced trainer and Darfur United Ambassador Rachel Rapinoe. Rachael’s expertise and experience in training will leave the refugee coaches equipped and prepared to manage the DU Soccer Academy as well as be positive leaders and role models for all the participant players.
In addition to training the coaches, we will be working with our on-the-ground NGO partners, UNHCR, and refugee leaders to develop the DU Soccer Academy weekly schedule, to recruit and sign up children and youth participants, and to recruit general volunteers to assist the coaches. We will carry out “mock” Academy sessions, run through drills, set up the fields, get to know the players, and work with the refugees to make it their own. I can’t wait to see the first generation of participants be a part of something structured, positive, and fun. And of course, I can’t wait to play soccer with the coaches and young participants!
There’s more! Beyond the October trip, i-ACT is already thinking ahead to 2014, when the Darfur United team aims to participate in another World Cup tournament for nationless teams! Having left their mark on the tournament and all the people involved who came to know and support the team; Darfur United has been invited to participate again – this time on a larger stage, and in a more beautiful setting – Sweden!
Once again, we’re going to have to overcome obstacles to get the refugee team there, but we strongly believe in Darfur United and all our supporters – with that, we know the team will get there and they will get their chance to play and to spread their movement of peace and hope through soccer.
We’ve made it easy for you to support the Darfur United Soccer Academy! A small donation of just $10 will give one child a one-year membership to participate in the Academy. To learn more and donate, go to For Kicks and Hope.