Portlanders gathered for two nights recently to celebrate and learn more about the Darfur United soccer teams and their roll in empowering Darfuris and other refugees around the globe. Two screenings of the film Not Just Football: From Genocide to the World Cup took place on September 12th and 13th.
Not Just Football tells the incredible story of Darfur United's all-refugee men's soccer team from a forgotten region, in camps on the Chad-Sudan border, and their amazing journey from genocide to playing on an international stage at the 2012 Viva World Cup in Iraq. This inspiring film—and the team—look to shine the spotlight back on Darfur and bring hope to millions of refugees around the globe.
There was a great crowd for the Portland premiere. Portland Timber's Larrys Mabiala joined us and said a few words after the film about the significance that soccer had in his life as his family fled the violence in DRC for a new life in France.
Souleyman Jassir, a Darfur United player; Gabriel Stauring, iACT's Founder and Chief of Vision and Strategy; and Mark Hodson, Darfur United Head Coach gave a brief talk after the film. Souleyman is one of the newest members of the team. When tryouts for the men's team were first held in the Darfuri refugee camps in Chad, he was only 14. Eight years later he and his family have resettled in the U.S. so he was able to attend the tryouts in Arizona this past Spring. He played his first DU game in Kent, Washington as the goalie this summer. Towards the end of the talk, Souleyman said he had a few words for the audience:
We were so thankful to be able to partner with World Oregon and Portland State University's Office of International Affairs and the Middle East Studies Center for the event.
The next night was the Fourth Annual iACT for Refugees event, taking place this year at Vacasa's headquarters in the Pearl. In addition to screening Not Just Football with the guests, we had delicious food and drinks provided by Stella Taco, Le Pigeon, Leikam Brewing and Flat Brim Wine as well as an incredible array of raffle offerings. Souleyman, Gabriel and Mark joined us for another talk after the film and were able to tell everyone more about the teams because it's not just the men's team we were there to celebrate and support. The money raised from the evening will also go towards the women's team and the Refugee United Soccer Academy for girls and boys in refugee camps in Chad, Tanzania, and Cameroon.
We were so thankful to all the volunteers that helped out both nights. One organization we want to make sure to highlight is the 107IST, the non-profit group behind the Timbers Army and Rose City Riveters. Volunteers from the Timbers Army pitched in both nights and also provided lots of support getting the word out ahead of time.
Our goal for the night was $10,000 which will contribute to the yearly salaries of the men and women Refugee United Soccer Academy coaches in refugee camps in Chad and Cameroon as well as support the training and travel costs of the Darfur United Men’s Team on their road to the CONIFA World Football Cup in 2020. We are thrilled that we went just beyond that goal. It's amazing to see and feel the support that our community continues to have for iACT's programs. We are a soccer city and that really showed at iACT for Refugees. We believe that soccer is bigger than just the field the game is played on. It can be a movement of hope. These two nights of events helped to show the Portland community that the formation of Darfur United and its participation in global tournaments have given Darfuri refugees a world stage on which to represent their people—and all refugees—and bring attention to some of the most vulnerable and forgotten populations.
We couldn't have done any of this without the great partnership with iACT team. In addition to Souley, Gabriel and Mark coming up for the events, we also had the Co-Executive Directors of iACT with us too, Sara-Christine Dallain and Katie Jay Scott Stauring.
We're already looking forward to next year and hope you will all join us to continue to be a part of the iACT support team to aid, empower, and extend hope to those affected by mass atrocities.
All photos by Lani Milton.