CONIFA Africa squad aim to strengthen their global squad with their second ever North American training camp
Twenty-one players eager to make Darfur United’s squad came together in Phoenix, Arizona this past week, taking part in a four day training camp and participating in two matches over the weekend.
Players’ ages ranged from late teens to mid-thirties and players came from as far away as New York state. The majority of the players currently live in Arizona, which was one of the key reasons for the training camp’s location.
A key goal of the camp was to find talented players located in the U.S. with the aim of combining them with the existing 13-player contingent located in Östersund, Sweden. By adding those two core groups of players together, Darfur United coach Mark Hodson believes they can field a strong team, capable of winning matches at next year’s CONIFA World Football Cup.
This is the second training camp the team has had in the U.S., following last year’s camp in Los Angeles, which is also the home base of humanitarian action group iACT, the organisation that created Darfur United.
“We are hoping to find a core of players that will strengthen the group that we have in Sweden,” says Gabriel Stauring, founder of both iACT and Darfur United. “We will make the team stronger and start winning games and accumulating some points. All of that on the road to being part of the CONIFA 2020 World Football Cup.”
After spending Thursday and Friday with two training sessions each day under the eye of head coach Hodson and assistant coach Rudy Sanchez, the players – most of whom had never played together before – had their first match on Saturday morning.
The opponents for that match were a group of select college players from throughout the city put together by Phoenix professional team, Phoenix Rising.
Darfur United pressed hard in the first half, controlling the flow of play but were unable to score despite sustained pressure. The Phoenix Rising selects scored on a quick counterattack late in the half and took a 1-0 lead into halftime.
The Darfur squad continued to press in the second half, eventually finding the equalizer when Sirajadine Yahay Abdoulaye snuck past the defense and slotted home past the goalkeeper, 15 minutes from time. Neither team could find a winner last quarter hour and the match ended in a 1-1 draw.
Coach Mark Hodson was pleased how the team performed: “I thought today’s game was very pleasing. Lots of positives,” said Hodson. “I think when we have the opportunity to merge the stronger players from this U.S.-based group with the Swedish group we really have a good opportunity to move our team forward.”
Hany Ramadan, who traveled from Maine for the camp and was captain for the first game, echoed his coach’s feelings: “We played together as a team today. We moved the ball the way that coach Mark (Hodson) taught us in practice. We kept the pressure on them.”
The team’s second game provided even greater success for the squad, as they defeated Phoenix R-XI two to nil. Both goals were scored by 24 year old Khalil Adam, who lives in Sioux Falls, South Dakota and was attending his first Darfur United training camp.
Stauring notes that there is still much to do after this week’s camp: ““We want to continue holding these training camps in the U.S. and in other parts of the world. We want to give them the opportunity to participate in this.”
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