Soldiers help German football clubs shine
July 18, 2013
WIESBADEN, Germany - Most Soldiers stay busy with work, training, physical fitness, continuing education and a host of other vital requirements.
But some even find time to play a little football.
In between keeping up with duties at the U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden headquarters, Sgt. Edward Smigelski not only just missed out on winning the 2013 Best Warrior Competition (he placed second at the competition in Baumholder in April), he recently joined several fellow U.S. Soldiers and civilians on the gridiron with the Wiesbaden Phantoms.
"We have the top offense and the top defense in the league," said Smigelski, who ran 102 yards to help the Phantom's B-team crush the Hanau Falcons 31-0 in a home game at the Helmut Schön Sports Park July 6.
Unlike the Phantoms A team which plays in the higher-level semi-professional German league, the B team has had a smooth ride through the season.
"There are actually six different leagues with the B team in the sixth league," said Smigelski, adding that thanks to a series of wins, the Phantoms will most likely move up to a higher league next season.
The USAG Wiesbaden Soldier said his best game this season was a game against the Friedberg Panthers where he racked up 157 yards rushing and scored two touchdowns.
"I've played running back since I was a little kid," he said, explaining that he was encouraged by his fellow garrison noncommissioned officer, Sgt. 1st Class Adam Martinez, to try out for the Phantoms a couple of months ago.
"They welcomed me with open arms," Smigelski said, adding that the German and American players frequently invite one another out to dinner and to hang out after games.
"It's a challenge and it's fun," he added, saying that although he expected the language to be a problem, it was not. "Thanks to being on the team, I've been learning more about the German culture and the language.
"The guys on the team are great athletes. The coach likes me out on the field, and I'm just having fun doing it," he said.
Although the leagues welcome American players, teams are limited to no more than six Americans and only two out on the field at any one time. Like the A team which includes American players, Smigelski said his team also features three other U.S. Soldiers in addition to himself.
Perhaps inspired by the blowout performance put on by the B team July 6, the Phantoms A team also crushed their opponents, the Franken Knights, in a late afternoon game at the sports park, 37-0.
The Phantoms A Team next plays at home Aug. 3 at 5 p.m. against the Munich Cowboys. The Helmut-Schön Sports Park is located next to the Brita Stadium across from the Hainerberg Shopping Center.
Free tickets are available at the garrison's Public Affairs Office in Building 1205 (across from the shoppette) on Clay Kaserne.