A FOOTBALL coach is hoping to lead a team of refugees to World Cup glory next week.
Accrington man Mark Hodson is hoping Darfur United can fire their way to unlikely success when they kick off their CONifa World Football Cup campaign in Sweden on Sunday.
The competition is made up of teams not recognised by FIFA, and Mark is quick to admit Darfur United’s chance of winning is as little as ‘zero’.
The 36-year-old former St Augustine’s student said: “The team is made up entirely of refugees, who live in refugee camps in the middle of the desert in East Chad.
“They live and play in the camps, which are like prisons. Some of them have never played on grass, or even worn football boots before.
“I wouldn’t put money on us winning.”
Mark grew up in Manor Street, and his family still lives in the town. After going to university in York, Mark moved to New York in 1999 to work in the Major League Soccer (MLS).
Five years later, he moved to Los Angeles, where he now lives with his wife Ashley, and children Willamena, three, and Kingston, one.
Mark and his family flew out to Ostersund in Sweden on Monday to meet up with the team. Next week’s tournament will be his second coaching the team, after taking them to Iraq in 2012.
He said: “In order to make the trips, we have to raise all the money privately, and it costs around $100,000.
“The tournament is about bringing different cultures together.”
“The players have to go back to the camps after the tournament, but in 2012 we found the players went back and became leaders within their community.
“It’s a completely unique experience for them; a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” Darfur United will play two group games in two days, starting at 4pm local time against Padania on Sunday.
And on Monday they will tackle Les Quebecois at 1pm.
The final will be played next Sunday.