News: US Soldiers, Kuwaitis play basketball, build friendships
Story by Sgt. Jennifer Spradlin
KUWAIT CITY, Kuwait – A basketball exhibition match at the Salwa Al Sabah Sports Center in Kuwait City, Kuwait, April 26, brought two nations together in friendly competition. Twelve U.S. Soldiers from Camp Arifjan took on the center’s all-female Kuwaiti team as they prepared for an upcoming tournament against other Gulf countries.
The two teams had never played against one another before and prior to the game, Spc. Alaina Drake, said that she was both excited and nervous to see how their teams matched up. Drake, who played basketball throughout high school, welcomed the opportunity to participate in the event.
“Basketball is fun for me. I enjoy it, and this is an experience that not many people get to be part of,” said Drake, a human resources specialist with the 406th Human Resources Company. “It’s nice to be around other women that enjoy doing the same thing you like to do.”
Drake, a Hawaii native, predicted a competitive game; which proved to be exactly what the audience and “Team USA” was in for.
The Kuwaiti team held a lead during the initial quarter, taking advantage of teamwork and speed to work around the size of the American players; however, the Soldiers soon found their own recipe for success with strong rebounding and layup skills. By halftime, they had amassed a 12-point lead.
Rather than letting the game slip away from them, the Kuwaiti team amped up their aggression and found ways to get to the free-throw line. The American lead was quickly slashed to two, with the Americans utilizing smart ball management and winding out the clock to clench the win. The final score: 43-41, favoring the Soldiers.
The game ended the way it began with players crossing the court to shake hands in a show of camaraderie and respect. Discussion quickly turned to making the matchup a regular event.
“We enjoyed it so much. It’s been so long since we had a game against a good girl’s team. We’ve been looking for a team, and we were so glad to find a team [to play against],” said Laila Behbehani, a player on the Kuwaiti team. “I really hope we can do this again.”
Behbehani has played basketball for 14 years and will be heavily relied upon during their tournament next week. She said that the American team played solid, physical basketball, and she was really impressed with their performance. She also said that her team played well, citing their teamwork and their late-game comeback as positive momentum for their upcoming matches.
Sgt. 1st Class Demara Boone, the team coach and Installation Transportation Office noncommissioned officer in charge for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Area Support Group-Kuwait, said he was pleased with the outcome of the game.
“Everyone enjoyed the game. It was a competitive game, but everyone had a good time during, before and after the game,” said Boone, who played in a similar match during a previous deployment to Kuwait in 2010. “I think this game boosts the morale of the players, and most importantly, it helps strengthen our friendship with the host nation.”
Boone, who was instrumental in organizing the match and assembling the team, said sports are the perfect way to bridge the cultural divide and demonstrates a positive image of the U.S. military.
“We’re here in Kuwait, and we want to show them that we are happy to be here. We enjoy the game just like they enjoy it,” said Boone.
The Arifjan players will next participate in a four-team tournament during Mother’s Day weekend.