Ben’s a world cup manager

Ben Holden
Ben Holden

HE may not be under the media microscope like Roy Hodgson – but PE teacher Ben Holden has a management challenge ahead this summer.

Ben, who works at High Tunstall College of Science, Hartlepool, is set to lead a team of former refugees into the Viva World Cup, which is a global football competition for regions throughout the world that do not have official international status.

The 27-year-old worked as a coach in Los Angeles in 2006 for a year and it was a contact he met out in America who called him and asked him how he felt about leading Darfur United into next month’s Viva World Cup.

The 16 players who make up Darfur United’s squad are all former Sudanese refugees who, having escaped the war-torn area will now get the unique chance to represent Darfur abroad in a global competition.

And despite the fact Ben is yet to meet his squad, he has already set his team a target ahead of the competition, to score a goal.

“That’s the first target,” Ben told the Mail.

“It’s more about the experience for them to be honest, it’s an amazing thing that these guys are going to be able to go abroad and play.”

Zanzibah, Tibet and Provence are just some of the teams who will line up in this summer’s competition, which is to be held in Kurdistan, in Iaq.

Whereas Darfur United’s players have never played outside of their region, some of their opponents are professionals.

And Ben is keeping his fingers crossed that his team will be drawn alongside host-team Kurdistan in the group stages, which would mean playing in front of 25,000 fans.

“I don’t really know what to expect from my team,” admitted Ben, who is flying out to meet his squad next Thursday.

“I’ve been told that six or seven of them are the equivalent of first team university players, which is a good standard.

“But I will have to do quite a bit of work with the keeper, I’ve been told he doesn’t know which areas of the pitch he’s allowed to pick the ball up in.”

Paul, who thanked High Tunstall College of Science for allowing him to have the time off work to coach the team, added: “The people of Darfur just hope the team does them proud and are glad that through participation in the tournament, the global community will be more aware of their plight.”

The competition starts on June 6 and runs until June 9.