Last week, Hunter and Andrea returned from Kurdistan Iraq after cheering on Darfur United in the Viva World Cup. It is hard to imagine getting on a plane to fly out of the country for the first time, staying in a hotel, walking through a buffet line for your meals, playing in uniforms with cleats and on grass ALL for the first time and being able to, at the same time, feel the pride of representing all of your family, friends and fellow refugees a half a world away. I can not wrap my mind around it and yet this is what Darfur United did.
And what a show they put on representing the people of Darfur…they were the talk of the tournament with teams giving them jerseys after games in congratulations for accomplishing all they had accomplished. Fans rushed the players after games to get autographs and media wanted to get as much material as they could.
The men were superstars. On the field, Darfur United was outmatched as their months of practice out in the desert sand was no match for the talent that comes from years and years of playing in international tournaments all over the world while being supported by training regiments, nutrition and all the confidence and savvy that comes from playing together with your team in international play.
But in the final game, the boys broke through. In the first half against Western Sahara, Mubarak Haggar Dougoum scored the first goal in international competition in Darfur United’s history. They held the game tight until late in the second half, tied 1-1 and had some chances to take the lead. While they ended up losing 5-1 to a team that had been together for 2 years, Darfur United, together for 2 months, provided for plenty of excitement, pride, and well deserved joy.