I’ve been fortunate enough to coach soccer to many different age groups, competitive levels, males and females and various regions of the world, however I most certainly have never coached Darfuri men. Before embarking on this trip as an assistant coach for Darfur United in the CONIFA World Football Cup, I asked myself a seemingly simple yet complex question; how do I coach Darfuri men?
As a coach, I like to always come to the pitch prepared. Detailed training sessions, game plans and knowing all the strengths and weaknesses of the players are imperative for success. Knowing how to succeed in this tournament was going to be a difficult task.
I arrived to the Stockholm airport hours before the rest of the team did, so I was able to watch them all walk through the terminal. That moment was completely surreal, one which I will never forget. I was humbled and in awe of the look on their faces as they realized they had actually made it to Sweden, the moment was fully theirs. Other than being utterly exhausted from traveling, these Darfuri men were absolutely glowing with excitement and emotions. Truly, I think Saleh was so excited he may have actually levitated (not really). It was in this moment I realized that success had a whole other definition. For these Darfuri men, they had already won.
Every training session has been uniquely productive and fun to say the least. It is obviously difficult to coach tactics to a group of footballers with minimal development, however that is not the ultimate goal here. Of course, we want these men to progress as footballers, understand the game more holistically and be able to impart knowledge back in their refugee camps. However most importantly, we want to build Darfuri leaders for the world to see.