News: Iraqi Soccer game
By Sgt. Matthew Acosta
22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
FORWARD OPERATING BASE DANGER, Tikrit, Iraq- Gone are the days when a military force would invade another country, devastate it, leaving it in ruins, and abandoning the life less aftermath to an uncertain future.
Today, there are many aspects of fighting a modern-day war; one of those is to help rebuild what was damaged in the conflict. Coalition Forces are now focusing on rebuilding Iraq, a country plagued by years of war and political and economic unrest, despite still waging war on the terrorist.
Besides construction projects and economic infrastructure reorganization, some programs exist to help one of the most unimportant important activities in Iraq-- soccer.
"Besides combat operations, another part of rebuilding Iraq is to give attention to Iraq's youth services and organizations," said Lt. Col. Todd Wood, commander, 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry, Task Force Liberty. "Soccer is the national sport here and it's very important to these people."
The previous civil affairs unit had started donating money to a local soccer stadium in Tikrit, for refurbishment and maintenance. However, seeing the Salah Ad Din Provincial Soccer League struggling to maintain as a functioning league, the incoming civil affairs unit decided to "get the ball rolling" for them, a civil affairs officer said.
"Things weren't going so well for the existing soccer league here." said Capt. Christopher Ortega, civil affairs officer, 2-7. "So we decided to use money donated from a private American business to purchase thousands of dollars worth of official uniforms and distribute them to the 25 soccer teams in the provincial league, to give them a jumpstart."
The civil affairs team coordinated the purchasing of uniforms and equipment through a supplier in Baghdad, and distributed it to the teams at a ceremony held at the Al Alam Soccer Stadium in Tikrit, Aug. 17.
Crowds gathered around the stadium to see the massive amount of newly purchased soccer gear stacked in boxes along the sideline of the playing field.
As part of the ceremony, two teams from the league were issued their uniforms early and played a soccer game using the newly acquired gear.
Wood said it was great to see the Iraqis play the game in high-quality, official uniforms they normally might not have.
After the match, the team managers and sponsors lined up to get their team's gear-- complete uniforms to include soccer balls, soccer shoes, towels and gear bags.
"To see the excitement and appreciation on their faces as they played the game just made me feel good being a part of it," said Spc. Daniel Sterett, civil affairs, 2-7. "It also felt good knowing we gave (the children) something to do to get them off the streets and maybe inspired them to set goals for themselves."
Ortega said the entire league is Iraqi-run and they are confident the league will function as planned with their newly equipped teams.
Although this war on terror is not fought on a soccer field, keeping a child off the streets by giving him options may help keep him from getting himself into a bad situation, which may aid in the fight against the insurgency.
"If we keep the kids off the streets by keeping them occupied and happy doing something they love," said Spc. Charles Richardson, civil affairs, 2-7, 'then there is less of a chance they will end up doing bad things in town or getting into trouble."