Forever Darfur United's 12th man, Ellan Vannin. Photo: Gabriel Stauring / i-ACT

The authentic men of Ellan Vannin, Darfur United’s 12th man. Photo: Gabriel Stauring / i-ACT

Despite the scoreboard, team Ellan Vannin enthusiastically chanted and clapped for Darfur United from the stadium stands—never ceasing or relenting, as if the match was tied and DU was fighting for a win. The next day, when Ellan Vannin won their own match, the team ran over to the Darfur United players in the stands, celebrating with them, jumping up and down together, again chanting Darfur United, Darfur United…!

I will never forget those moments. To see the Ellan Vannin players so proudly accept and celebrate Darfur United still brings tears to my eyes. To see our players, a group of young refugee men who have grown up in the isolation of refugee camps, be so embraced, literally, by a group of guys from a small island in the Irish Sea was incredibly rewarding for me.

Months before the World Football Cup in Ostersund, Darfur United and Manx Independent Football Alliance team Ellan Vannin became “Twinned” teams. Through this partnership, Ellan Vannin greatly contributed to getting Darfur United to Ostersund. But once in Ostersund, this partnership that was formed between worlds apart, quickly proved to be so much more. It was a friendship and a brotherhood, and Ellan Vannin made Darfur United’s participation and experience in the World Football Cup more positive, special and memorable. They were Darfur United’s 12th man.

Ellan Vannin players may know how to get rowdy, celebrate and sing a good chant, but these guys also know how to show heart, integrity and empathy. For that, they have solidified me as an Ellan Vannin fan forever.

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