Darfur United vs. Cascadia

Photo: Paul Kahl

The opportunity to host Team Training Camp in Kent, Washington led to a handful of firsts for Darfur United this month. It was the team’s first stop on their Road to World Football Cup 2020, the first time DU played in Washington state, the first CONIFA cap for the USA-based DU players, and the first DU goal in North America.

These historic moments wouldn’t have been possible without the incredible support for the DU team near and far! The team’s training kits were sponsored by SCORE Sports and FaceFirst, Inc in Southern California, and player travel costs and lodging were assisted thanks to donations from DU fans across the country. In Kent, the squad was provided top-level training facilities, medical care, and team meals due to the generosity of ISC Gunners, ATC Sheri Hendlund and DU’s PT, ATC Alex Nuttall-Smith, team sponsor Washington Cedar and Supply, local restaurants including Golden Steer Steak n’ Rib House, and the gracious host team, Cascadia AFF.

Photo: Paul Kahl

The week began on Wednesday, as players flew in from seven different states and 10 different cities to participate in training sessions and a match against Cascadia’s USA-based team. As always, the arrival of the players is a special moment for the squad, giving everyone a chance to reconnect and catch-up after a few months apart from one another.

The team got to work right away, holding two training sessions on both Thursday and Friday led by Head Coach Mark Hodson. Training gave the team a chance to develop as a unit and prepare for a game against one of CONIFA’s most experienced teams. Friday concluded with jersey ceremony for the players, a special DU tradition, and a team dinner generously hosted by Cascadia AFF.

The anticipation and excitement for the 1:00pm kickoff on Saturday spread beyond the team itself, as DU fans traveled to the game from inside and outside the state of Washington, including players’ family and friends who created a cheering squad at the pitch and dozens more around the country who watched the game’s livestream. Kent Mayor Dana Ralph and City Council President Bill Boyce came to the field to welcome both teams and kick off the historic match!

Cascadia’s experienced squad was an important challenge for the young DU roster, showing the speed of play and physicality that will be displayed at the World Football Cup. Despite an 8-1 scoreline, Darfur United shined in moments throughout the match, with dangerous counter-attacks on the wings and displays of impressive individual defending. The game was highlighted by DU’s first CONIFA goal in North America, scored by Khalid Abdulkhalik off a corner-kick from Iessa Ramadan.

Darfur United will look to build upon the high-level of training and competition seen over the course of this training camp, with opportunities for Darfuri players in the USA and abroad hoping to earn spot on the final World Football Cup Roster in June. As always, this growth and excitement around the squad will be an effort that is possible only thanks to the Darfur United Family around the world.

Photo: Paul Kahl

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