I seem to say this a lot related to our i-ACT work but…here we go again! We are ready to go full-force in what would appear to be another challenging, some would say “close to impossible,” journey: Darfur United, an all refugee team from remote camps on the edge of the Sahara desert, will be reassembled and taken to participate in an international tournament. This time, Sweden and the CONIFA World Football Cup is the goal-destination (June 2014) for a group of young men that has survived some of the most horrific events in modern history and just wants to play some ball and represent their homeland, Darfur.
There are huge challenges ahead. We must navigate the difficult logistics of getting refugees from twelve different camps that dot the isolated Chad-Sudan border to come together for try-outs. We will bring professional coaches to the camps for this process, including 2012 DU Head Coach Mark Hodson. Once a team is formed, it must stay together for two months training and preparing for international competition against strong and experienced teams. All of this will take complicated collaboration between us, the refugee community, the United Nations Refugee Agency, the Government of Chad, and our on-the-ground partners from Jesuit Refugee Service. Just this first stage will require considerable funding.
The second stage involves obtaining travel documents, including passports and visas to Europe, for young men who only have refugee cards. When we get this done (and I say “when” with educated-hope in my mind and heart), we then need even more substantial funding to get the team to Sweden. Air travel from Chad to anywhere is extremely expensive. Oh, and I won’t even go into detail about having to find support for uniforms, gear, medical supplies, clothes and travel essentials—and many other things that come up along the way—for the players.
Once we get them to Sweden, it’s all about football! Of course, the players get to tell their stories and share about their experiences as refugees. This journey will serve as a wonderful vehicle for attracting more support for the Darfur United Soccer Academy, which is a program that is having and will have true impact now and into the future.
I hope you join us in the journey. We will need huge support. I can assure you that the rewards will also be huge—for the refugees and for you!