“No matter what happens, you’re always part of our family.” This statement was among the final sentiments given by Darfur United Head Coach Mark Hodson upon the conclusion of tryouts for the Darfur United Men’s Team (DU) this past weekend. Interested Darfuri players from seven states and five countries contacted DU staff to inquire about participating in the two-day event. 19 players arrived in Los Angeles on Friday evening. Several will join the Darfur United roster in the coming days.

The Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute  was on site for training sessions, providing world-class medical support for the tryout participants. The weeked was also made possible thanks to generous donations from Evolution Soccer Programs, Protime Sports, Athletic RecoveryMickey’s DeliBrack Mountain Wine Company, Trader Joe’s, and Vons.Tryouts began with technical work and small-sided play on Saturday morning, followed by a 10 vs.10 match. Then, players participated in a classroom session to learn more about DU’s history and share their motivation for participating in the tryouts.

“Darfur is my country and people,” reflected Hassan, one of the participants. “It is the dream team to play for.” Hassan fled Darfur as a young boy before spending nearly 10 years in refugee Camp Gaga on Chad’s eastern border. He now lives in Phoenix, AZ, with his mother and sisters.

On Sunday, the players competed against a team made up of local players from the South Bay, CA, area. The game finished in a victorious 3-2 win for the DU-side. Tryouts concluded with a session in recovery yoga followed by a farewell lunch. While not all participants will be able to join the DU squad, Coach Hodson’s words certainly seemed to resonate with the players. Darfur United is their team. They’re all part of the family.