As a Soldier in the United States Army, who is currently deployed to Iraq, there isn't a whole lot to take your mind off of the mission at hand, transforming Iraq into a free democratic nation and turning control back over to the Iraqi people, but every once in a while an event happens that is truly magical and makes you forget about the war over here for a brief period of time. I was extremely honored and proud to have played a small part in one these magical events.
Every Saturday on FOB Normandy, a small U.S. base in Iraq, the local Iraqi nationals, who work as interpreters for the U.S. Army, and the Ugandan security forces, who provide over-watch for the base, take time out for a weekly soccer game. On January 23, 2010, I was privileged to be invited by one of the interpreters to join in and play in this weekly game, and I graciously accepted as I used to play soccer all the time when I was growing up. What I came to realize later is that this was much more than just a regular old soccer game. It was a full blown match with two forty-five minute halves and referees and a great tool for relations between the countries of Iraq and Uganda. This was truly an experience that I will never forget as I played as a member of the Iraqi team and was the only American invited to play.
Now this game won't be seen on Sports Center or on any highlight package on the news, but it was a truly exciting game in which I had the honor of participating in. The action was fast paced as the Iraqis quickly took a 1-0 lead in the tenth minute, but that did not stop the Ugandan attack which quickly answered with three goals in the fifteenth, twenty-first and forty-third minutes respectively.
The hope of victory seemed out of reach for the Iraqi squad as the second half got underway, and the Ugandans holding a 3-1 lead, but all of a sudden in the seventy-second minute, one Iraqi player broke free and scored making the score 3-2 in favor of the Ugandans. Then in the eighty-eight minute, the Iraqis once again were able to put the ball in the back of the net evening the score at three goals apiece. I was literally excited beyond all imagination at all the possibilities that could happen. When the ninety minute mark reached, play was continued due to five minutes of stoppage time, during which the Iraqis scored the game winning goal securing a 4-3 victory over the Ugandan team.
At the end of the game, my final stats were zero goals with one assist, but more importantly, for that brief ninety plus minute period of time, I didn't think about the war going on outside the gates of FOB Normandy and made a few lifetime friends whom I will never forget. I am truly looking forward to playing every Saturday while I am deployed over here in Iraq.