Editor’s note: This was originally posted on darfurunited.com by DU Head Coach Mark Hodson.
The Darfur United boys enjoy the dream tour to Sweden at a local cultural museum during one of their off days. Photo: Sean Toshima / i-ACT
I suspect that the player’s spend a lot of time in the refugee camps “imagining…..” Imagining what it’s like “out there” in the World as we know it. The camps are a dark place at night, with limited electricity…there’s not much to do but imagine….I wonder where their mind takes them… of the dreams they still carry.
As the reality of our journey takes shape, I wonder what it feels like for the players to take footsteps in a country that is so far removed from the monotonous routine that is daily life in a refugee camp. To move freely, to eat good, clean, healthy food and not be concerned as to when the next meal will arrive, or have the need to portion meager rations to last the week.
I wonder how it feels for the team to step into the fresh clean air of Ostersund, on a beautiful clear day and breathe in the magic that seems to trail closely behind this incredible group of young men.
I wonder if they are starting to prepare for the reality of returning to the camp.
Today we are preparing for our third* game.
The games are difficult against teams with much greater experience, resources and natural health. We find ourselves under tremendous pressure for the duration of the 90-minute matches, against players who don’t let up.
Our players are malnourished, carrying injuries and have a limited base of athletic training from their time in the refugee camps……We don’t want our opponents to hold back or treat us differently, we want to play.
To see the team compete for every ball, to commit to every tackle and to chase every seemingly, “lost cause” of a pass, does everything to magnify the true make-up of these magnificent men, and time and time again they present to the World what our team already knows…. That no matter what you throw at them, no matter how many times they get knocked over, you will never hold them back or keep them down…They just want a chance to play. and “boy” do they bring it, in their own unique “magical” way, every single day!
Football is the heartbeat that pulses through the camps…it’s one of the few truly enjoyable activities that camp life has to offer. You will see football shirts that have been donated over time with Messi and Ronaldo emblazoned across the back. Any object remotely round will automatically be crafted into a ball and a game can appear anywhere at any time.
I wonder…if right now, as the children go to sleep at night, in the extreme darkness of the camps in Eastern Chad…If their dreams take on new shapes….I wonder if they have new hopes and new heroes, and one day they will aspire to be just like them. Heroes, who have succeeded against all odds, who have walked the same long and dusty path and risen to the top! Heroes who have earned the respect and admiration of everyone they have touched across the globe…. for their heart…their passion…their loving friendship and their sheer unwavering resilience to never, never, never give up….I wonder if the children dream about one day…being Darfur United!
Coach Mark Hodson