It did not start as a happy story. On the contrary, Ismail’s refugee story begins as most refugee stories do: with violence, loss, and heartbreak. Young Ismail used soccer to renew his heart, and he grew up to be one of the most positive, joyful people you’ll ever meet.

Please support Ismail’s journey to the World Unity Cup.

I met Ismail when he was just a boy, back in 2006. In 2012, he was selected as a goalie for the first Darfur United Men’s Team. At that point, I did not know that I had already met him and his family years before. His mother had told us of how her husband had been shot and killed by a member of the militia when the family was at their village’s market in Darfur. Ismail heard his father, before he died, tell them to gather all the children and any food they could carry and escape. They walked across the desert to Chad, where they began their lives as refugees. 

Gabriel Stauring, Ismail and Coach Mark Hodson, 2014.

Gabriel Stauring, Ismail and Coach Mark Hodson, 2014.

Soccer is a joyful game for Darfuris. It is also so much more. As one refugee leader said when he first heard of Darfur United, “Now we are part of the world.”

Take part in Darfur United’s story. Let Ismail, the other players, and all of the refugees back in the camps know that you care and are rooting for them. Reply to this blog, and I will bring your messages for the team with me.

Support Darfur United’s participation at the World Unity Cup. Be a part of celebrating the joy of bringing people together.

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