IMG_2767The members of Darfur United share the hardships of any international athlete: long flights to a foreign country followed by new foods and unfamiliar playing fields. But unlike star athletes from professional leagues, they arrive malnourished, dehydrated and chronically injured from lack of medical care in the refugee camps they call home. Even so, they possess unrivaled determination, passion and a will to play through pain in order to tell the world about their country and their people.

I’m the DU medical trainer and these players are the strongest athletes I have ever treated. Thanks to donations, the “Darfur United Hospital” – my hotel room – is well equipped. The line for treatment is getting long. All the players have bruises, blisters and scrapes from the last three games. The swollen body parts are the result of colliding with opponents who tend to resemble Titans. One Darfur United player sustained a broken hand and another player has torn ligaments in his knee.

Despite their injuries, they were all on the field preparing for today’s final game. They are strong.

On the field, treatments must be fast and include applying coolant spray to any body part that happened to collide with the opposing Titan. Another popular treatment is the “Darfur Shake”: a gentle shake of the sore body part. Sadly, in the camps there is no medical trainer and these athletes must treat each other when injured during camp scrimmages. The “Darfur United Shake” has proven to be highly successful, and familiar, to them.

Strength in an athlete is a combination of hard work, an ability to survive losses and a will to fight for what you believe in. No injury, bruise or illness will stop these inspirational players from achieving greatness and becoming Titans of peace.

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