Hello from Goz Beida, again!
This morning we made it back to Goz Beida by road. The journey was relatively quick and easy. Five of us and all of our luggage, crammed in the back of an old Land Cruiser with a brief stop along the way to fix our flat tire. Minor detail.
When we arrived to camp Djabal this morning, the players had just finished eating their breakfast. We found them meandering back to the English Center compound, their home in the camp while they’re training. We met them there and just hung out with them while we waited for others to arrive. The guys sat in small groups on mats in the shade. Some playing cards, others playing a game with small rocks that did not make any sense to me no matter how much I watched. A few had me attempt to shoot one of their hand made slingshots. I failed miserably and bruised my thumb, which of course produced some heavy laughter out of the guys. From my phone I played the Shakira “Waka Waka” 2010 World Cup song, and they all said, “Shakira!!” and proceeded to sing along. It was nice just to lounge around with them and to see them so comfortable and laid-back together.
However, during this time, in the back of my head I kept thinking about the players we’d have to cut from the team in moments. Yes, this was the morning we had to announce the final 15 players that we would take to Sweden. Meaning, Gabriel had to announce the six who we would not take.
I filmed, holding the video camera on Gabriel. He was holding the list of names in his hands. I could tell he was dreading the moment. When he finally did deliver the first name, I looked away, cringing. I just felt so bad. I just didn’t want to hear that first name. And I could tell that Gabriel didn’t want to say it. But there was no hiding behind the camera or way around it. This is the reality of a sports team.
Gabriel went on to call out each name, mentioning something positive about each player. The player’s facial expressions were hard to read, but the team clapped and gave supportive pats on the back to each whose name was called. The tears started to build after all six were announced. I held them back and tried to change my thoughts. I focused on the wonderful opportunity each of these players have had so far. The friendships they’ve made, the experience they’ve had and the break from their daily routines and hardship in the camps. Darfur United is so much more than just going to Sweden, and I believe that each of these players knows that they are a part of something bigger and meaningful no matter what.
What’s great is that the six players that did not make the final 15 are going to stick around and keep training with the team, helping to get them ready for Sweden. True teammates! Tomorrow morning, Gabriel and I will head out to the camp early to watch them train.
A BIG BIG thank you to all of you who have supported the team in the past few months and the past few days!! Taking the team to Sweden wouldn’t be possible without you. Today the players expressed their deep gratitude to you all. They are very much aware that their opportunity to play and represent their people on a global stage wouldn’t have happened without your help.