“The ball is small, but the meaning is much bigger,” is what Darfur United goalie Ismail said to a Japanese journalist this morning during his interview. He was describing what participating in World Football Cup meant to him.
There’s something special about watching the guys do interviews. Its a realization that we are accomplishing one of the objectives of Darfur United: to raise global awareness and educate people about the situation in Darfur and about the refugee experience. What is more, we seek to raise that awareness through the voices of the refugees themselves.
It’s gratifying and emotional to see them tell their story to international media. They’re reaching audiences across the world. They are so proud to know that somebody in Italy, the Netherlands or Japan will be reading their words, seeing their photos and hearing their story.
They have hope that through this tournament, through football and these interviews, people will come to know a little about their lives. They will know that over the past 11 years, they’ve been confined to refugee camps, dealing with loss, lack of opportunity and the unknown. They have had little choice but to put their hopes in the hands of others…in the hands of people like you and me. Their hope is that we will carry their voices and needs and make efforts to bring peace to Darfur. Now, at least for a short time, they have the microphone and the attention. They get to speak freely.
Darfur United is here to compete. To play. To give it all they have and improve as a team. But Ismail said it so well this morning: being here in beautiful Ostersund for the World Football Cup has a much bigger meaning for our players, a meaning that carries far beyond 90 minutes of play on the pitch, kicking around a small ball.