CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE BASRA — They play soccer every night at Camp Savage, every night except Sunday. They are Soldiers from America, Sabre International guardsmen from East Africa and translators from outside the gates. Speakers of a menagerie of tongues -- English, Ugandan, Swahili, Arabic -- But this game -- this soccer, football, koura el-khadim -- connects them.
And all throughout you can hear their camaraderie in the multi-lingual sounds of soccer.
Wild slides and jukes send gravel skittering across the field and throw dust into the air. Stuttering feet in desperate chase drum syncopated rhythms. The net rustles as the football courses through its contours before nestling at the bottom near the defeated goalie's feet.
And then there is the jubilant cry GOOOOAL!
Games have always had the power to bring people together, and it's no different for the Soldiers, Sabre guardsmen and Iraqis.
Their field is the base parking lot; their boundaries are the bunker walls, the trailer and the humvee. Their language is soccer.
George Easirija, a Sabre guardsman, dribbles left, but someone's there. He dribbles right, but no!
He stops. He pops the ball into the air and then lofts it through a thicket of limbs to his teammate up ahead, who advances it forward. GOOOAL!
Semuyala Livingstone, another Sabre guardsman, is covered. He spins and passes to a man in front of the goal. He shoots and the ball ricochets to Frank Tumusiime, who has an open shot. With a long step and swing, Tumusiime boots the ball past the goalie and past the goal and over the barbed wire fence that separates the base from the dangers outside.
The game is halted until the gate guards retrieve the ball.
Spc. Andrew Hoffman, a Tacoma, Wash., native and air conditioning mechanic with the 308th Brigade Support Battalion darts around the field, kicking and yelling.
There is quite a bit of shouting, but all involved insist it's good-natured.
"It's all fun and games," said Staff Sgt. Christopher Mason, a Rochester, N.Y., native and a mechanic with the 308th BSB. "After the game, we shake hands, just like, in the beginning, we all pray before the game."
No one takes themselves too seriously.
"At times we play rough, but we don't mean it," said George Easirija. "We just play."
In the middle of everything is an Iraqi translator with the nickname Duck. He said that the night games brought him closer to his coworkers.
"When I start playing the first days, I was not a good player. But then there was a great shift for me," Duck said. "They made me feel an important player. That's why they come to my room, they knock on my door, they ask me to play and they insist to play with them."
While, some Soldiers spend their free time on deployment watching TV or playing video games, there are worse ways to spend time than connecting with your coworkers playing soccer, the global game.
"We get to meet new friends," said Mason.
"New people. New cultures," said Hoffman, "and it's something to do."
This work, GOOOOAL! Camaraderie to be found in the night time soccer games at Camp Savage, by SGT J.P. Lawrence, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.