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First Day of Training Camp for Darfur United Women’s Team

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The first day of training camp with the Darfur United Women’s Team felt peacefully familiar. We arrived early in the morning to see the players already at the field eager to begin their sessions, smiling ear-to-ear when checking out their new cleats and jerseys—for some players their first-ever pair of soccer shoes— and giggling with excitement as they spoke with one another about the week ahead. The atmosphere had the same sense of anticipation and joy as the start of every soccer season I can remember growing up, and my heart was happy knowing that these women now share in the universal experience of camaraderie that comes when you are part of a team. Their hearts seemed happy, too.

My favorite moment today was between the morning and afternoon sessions, as the players gathered for a meal and relaxed before the work began again. As they snacked on bread and veggies laying on mats under a tree, my mind raced through dozens of memories lounging on grassy fields in the shade with my own teammates. I smiled watching Nouha and Isma speaking like best friends do, lost in laughter and conversation. I wondered what some of my teammates-turned-best-friends were doing at that moment. If you didn’t know better, it would have seemed as if these players were your own neighborhood team, and it would perhaps be easier to leave the story there.