By Ola Bjerkevoll
Darfur United originally began in 2012 in the refugee camp Djabal, located in Goz Beida, eastern Chad. In a joint effort with the Darfuri refugee community, the United Nations Refugee Agency and football fans, the humanitarian organisation iACT formed the Darfur United men’s team, giving the refugees living in the camp a chance to play their favourite sport.
Now the group wants to create a women’s team.
“When the men were trying out for the first Darfur United team, the refugee women called me over and asked, ‘What about us?’ This opportunity to represent Darfur, refugees, and women around the world is beyond special. It’s transformational,” iACT’s Founding Executive Director Gabriel Stauring said.
The new women’s side will be comprised of players from eight refugee camps in eastern Chad and will hold their first-ever week-long training camp in October 2018.
The kits for the Darfur team will be made by sportswear brand Stingz, who has previously supplied CONIFA World Football Cup teams Cascadia and Tuvalu.
“We are honoured to have been appointed as the official kit suppliers to Darfur United’s women’s football team. As a brand, we have always believed that custom-designed professional sports apparel should be available to everyone, from community teams right through to stadium-filling mega clubs,” Ernest Stobbs, co-founder of Stingz explained.
Stobbs continued: “Our team is small, but extremely dedicated and passionate about what we do; we have also had to overcome our share of challenges. The Darfur women have experienced similar, if not more severe challenges, all of which makes our sponsorship even more meaningful.”
Hong Kong-based Blue Star Exchange will be sponsoring the team. BSX is a contemporary fashion brand and will have their name on the Darfur United women’s team’s playing kit.
Mark Loynd, Executive Director of BSX’s holding company, said: “BSX is delighted to be supporting such a great cause and such a fantastic football team. Our group slogan is ‘World Without Strangers’, which reflects our core values of inclusivity and harmony, and illustrates just how natural and veritable this collaboration is.”
As for the playing side of things, the challenge is a big one, but Darfur United Head Coach Mark Hodson is certain they can develop into a strong side.
“Just as when we started the Darfur United men’s team, many of the women have never played in shoes before, they’ve never played on grass, most probably never played at all. It’s going to be a gradual process, but our goal is to eventually take the teams to the CONIFA World Football Cup. I think we will. We have the tenacity, the organisation and the drive to make it happen.”