The Darfur United Women’s Team. Photo: Amy Gilmore/iACT

The launch of the first-ever Darfur United Women’s Team has been years in the making. It required a global community committed to equality, opportunity, and hope. This week, the dream of a Darfuri women’s team became a reality for the 20 players who officially earned a spot with Darfur United on Sunday. These women are community leaders, teachers, farmers, mediators, caretakers, mothers, and providers. And now, they are proud footballers.

Halime and her daughter Sara. Photo: Amy Gilmore/iACT

I witnessed countless demonstrations of grit, leadership, and heart from the women as their many roles did not stop when they laced up their cleats. Rather, they seamlessly and bravely accepted another irreplaceable role for their community, and they did it together.

They took turns mid-practice to care for Mohammed, Sam, Sara, and Moshahid—Darfur United’s youngest cheering squad. They trained with intensity and focus, while also managing the crowds of curious children who wanted a glimpse of this historic team. They competed fearlessly while creating an atmosphere of teamwork. They stepped up to organize gear and ensure a safe practice ground. They were tired and sore, but fought to play anyway. They were patient, hard working, selfless, and determined.

They were united, just as are the hundreds of women around the world who have supported and encouraged the Darfur United players over the last few years. The Darfuri women are now part of the women’s soccer village, and let me tell you, we are lucky to have them.