This blog was written by Rudy Sanchez, Darfur United Assistant Coach. 

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Coach Rudy with players Ismail and Bishara

During our stay, one of my tasks was to conduct a short interview where one of the questions asked the refugees what they missed most about their home in Darfur. Little to my surprise, the answer always consisted of family, friends, culture, and other details that fit into one of those categories. To most of us–including myself–these things are a flight or two away, a fifteen minute or a two-hour drive. But for these young men, the journey back home–and more importantly to a home that is safe and at peace–is much longer and goes beyond the football pitch

With all of that in mind, as one of the coaches on the team, I began to think of how the game is helping these young men through all they have and continue to go through. For myself, and many who play or played, the football pitch is like a second home. During this interview, many of the players, if not all, told me they feel relaxed, happy, and safe when they play. All feelings that come to us when we are at home. As a player, I was told by several coaches that the game, like life, is easier than we think. Often times we just complicate it more than it needs to be. After my talk with the fine young men of Darfur United, I can’t help but think, “Is it really that hard to be peaceful, so that these guys, and so many in their place, can return home?”

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Until the day the young men of Darfur United can return to a peaceful home, they will continue to carry the Darfur United badge on and off the pitch as a symbol of their journey, and the thousands of other lives that share similar stories. For the time being, the city of Östersund and its amazing people like Al and Judith continue supporting these young men and the message they carry.