Dates: March 28 – April 7, 2012
i-ACT’s primary focus will be team selection for Darfur United – an all-refugee soccer team set to attempt to compete in the 2012 Viva World Cup in Iraqi Kurdistan. The story of Darfur United is a living documentary being told via social media. It will be the first trip for Coaches Mark and Brian who will help choose and prepare the team before their first international tournament.
i-ACT will also be delivering the second mobile library in partnership with the Human Rights Watch Student Task Force. The library consists of a donkey saddled with learning materials focused on human rights and the English language, and will travel from school to school within camp Djabal.
Refugee Camp Djabal, Eastern Chad (April 13, 2012) — Darfur United, an all refugee soccer team from Darfur, announced its roster, after a week of try-outs and trainings in a refugee camp close to the Chad-Sudan border. This effort was organized by a small non-profit based in Redondo Beach, CA and coached by EVO Soccer Programs owner and Manhattan Beach Sand and Surf Soccer Club Director of Coaching, Mark Hodson.
Sixty-one players from the twelve refugee camps that dot the Chad-Sudan border participated in try-outs for fifteen spots on the team roster. This team will represent Darfur, the embattled region of Sudan, in the 2012 Viva World Cup in June, a soccer tournament for nationless people and other groups not represented by FIFA, the international soccer federation.
Coach Mark Hodson said, “The level of talent was impressive, especially considering the facilities and resources available to the players. Everyone came ready to play, and they didn’t need asking twice to produce their best level of effort.”
The i-ACT team has posted many blogs, photos and videos to darfurunited.com!
It has already been an emotional journey for all involved because this team will represent so much more than a game. Our podcast, Hit the Ground Running, includes i-ACT’s arrival in Goz Beida, travel to Djabal and a visit to the local restaurant to see what players will be eating. Our team meets many of the hopefuls upon arrival and to look in their eyes there can be no denying what a spot on the Darfur United Team would mean to them.
Hundreds gather around the goalie tryouts and it is clear what Darfur United will mean to every Darfuri man, woman and child. The players rise at dawn to avoid the midday heat as they vie for coveted spots on the team that will carry the word to the world at The Viva Cup.
We share the simple yet all too important joy this game and this team will bring to our friends as we see the women watch the team as they collect water for their families early each morning. They too rise at the crack of dawn to assure a first spot in line at the water point before their long walk back.
The team hopefuls speak for themselves in our Sound Off’s as we get to know the young men trying out and our first is Sulieman Adam Borma who shares his feelings with the watching world. Coaches Brian and Mark share the anticipation of announcing the 15 team members and 5 alternates who have made the team. There is tremendous joy in sharing the news with those lucky 20, but also a profound sadness about ending the Darfur United dreams of 41 other players who learn their fate one by one. Coach Brian’s blog captures the emotional roller coaster of reactions our Darfur United hopefuls experience as they take in the news.
For many the team journey has ended, yet they will never be the same. They know something now: they are not forgotten and Darfur is indeed United. For the 20 who have been chosen to represent the pain and triumph of so many years and lost lives – the journey has just begun. Please help them carry the word…….
On Behalf of the i-ACT Team, Stacey
In this episode, we finally land in Goz Beida and travel to Djabal camp to see the 20 or so players who have already arrived. We meet them at their temporary tent camps and then see what they’ll be eating at the local restaurant. Coaches Mark and Brian even get a chance to see some of the Djabal players in action.
Coaches Mark and Brian embark on their first meeting with the potential players of Darfur United. Mark writes:
As the sun dimmed and we prepared to leave for the day we seized the opportunity to bring the players together for a briefing for tomorrow’s commencement of action. Through the use of our amazing 16 year old translator Rahma, we shared with the players that this was “their team” and that it was our goal to unite them on and off the field over the next six days and hopefully in a meaningful enough way that these new relationships might flourish and serve to bring some of the solutions that these people are seeking. There is unfortunately little hope for many of the people in these camps. Education is minimal and despite the amazing effort of groups such as i-ACT, the opportunity for individuals to move on to achieve much greater things with their lives is often a step too far. Read more here…
Before the i-ACT team left, we tried to collect as many cleats as possible in sizes 9-12. We were able to collect enough for the 20 players selected to be on the team, but not for everyone trying out. At first there are a few grumblings about this, but soon the pride of Darfur United shines through. Brian shares his experience:
One player asked to speak, and when we motioned to him he stood up and spoke straight from the heart. He was saying that this team is for Darfur. That this is not for the sake of individuals. For the first time since they fled their homes, Darfur is once again being United. Once this player spoke, it opened up the stage for a few more players to make their voices heard. They spoke about how they were grateful that Gabriel has done all the work to make this a reality and that cleats should be the last thing on their mind. This moment grabbed me in a way that no documentary, news article, or blog ever could. These Darfuri refugees were voicing their feelings right in front of me, for the world to hear. Read more here.
Although I’m not going on this trip, I know it’s going to be one of the most exciting. I think we probably say that every trip. However, this time, and with Darfur United, we are bringing the opportunity for the refugees to be “part of the world,” as one refugee said during the i-ACT11 Expedition upon hearing about the team. When you watch the footage from last trip, you can see the hope and pride that the refugees when they talked about having a soccer team of their own.
Mark and Brian are the coaches for Darfur United and will help with team selection and training in the coming days. They have a big job ahead of them that includes narrowing down 20 players from almost 70. I’m eager to read and see their experience as not only coaches, but as ordinary people who will have a huge impact on so many.
Gabriel will also be delivering the second R2E Mobile Human Rights Library to Camp Goz Amer and bringing supplemental materials for the library in Camp Djabal. Over the last several months Rahma and Adam have been taking the library to the six schools in Camp Djabal and sending updates! This trip, Gabriel will find a librarian for Goz Amer and hand over kindles, talking dictionaries, handmade materials by students from the Human Rights Watch Student Task Force, English materials, and more.
The Expedition Team has reached N’Djamena, the capital of Chad, and they will head out to the East early tomorrow morning. You can read the first blogs from Gabriel, James, Mark and Brian here!