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Darfuri Refugees to Compete for First Time at 2012 VIVA World Cup Soccer Tournament

“Now we are part of the world,” says Darfuri Elder and Camp Leader

Refugee Camp Djabal, Eastern Chad (May 24, 2012) — Until several months ago, Darfur didn’t even have a soccer team or perhaps even hadn’t dreamed of one. Now after weeks of try-outs and training, Darfur United, a team comprised solely of Darfur refugees, will compete for the Nelson Mandela Trophy at the 2012 VIVA World Cup in Erbil, Iraqi-Kurdistan, June 5-9.

Many of the young men on Darfur United have only played on the desert sand, with bare feet and makeshift balls. On June 5th they will run out into the 28,000 seat Franso Hairi Stadium and play on a real field for the first time, against teams from Monaco, Tamil, Kurdistan, Occitania, Southern Cameroons and other nations.

“The Darfur United players have had nothing positive to celebrate and have been losing hope of any future beyond the confines of the refugee camp,” says Gabriel Stauring, Director of iACT, which is partnering with Aid Still Required to bring the team to Iraq. “This team means so much more to them than just a game of football. It gives all refugees something to celebrate, and it gives them a connection to the outside world.”

Anticipation is growing widely in the Darfur camps in advance of VIVA. Every day refugees line the area where their team practices. One elder, describing the pride permeating the camps, said, “Now we are part of the world.”

Souleyman Adam Bourma, a refugee from camp Goz Amer who tried out for Darfur United, put it this way: “I am very excited. I cannot express my feelings. We heard about this team six months ago, and today it’s truth.”