BALAD, Iraq -Several hundred Iraqis gathered in western Shomali at the Euphrates High School soccer field to watch a championship match between two neighborhood favorites.

They weren't the only spectators at the hot - and heated - match.

Battery B, 5th Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Long Knife Brigade, accepted an invitation from Iraqi Police Maj. Rathman, the local police chief, to take a quick break from dismounted operations, sit back and enjoy a soccer game.

"I knew if (the American Soldiers) came to the soccer game, it would be a great opportunity for the unit to show support for the community and get to know some of the 'grass roots' locals," Rathman said regarding the invitation he extended to the Long Knife Brigade's Soldiers.

The 110-degree heat did not deter the excitement of the match. When the convoy of humvees and IP vehicles rolled to a stop, local children eager to practice their English with the Americans swarmed them.

After greeting the local leaders and interacting with a myriad of children, Zoizack and the other Soldiers moved to midfield seats with the local citizens to enjoy the game.

"I couldn't help but root for the red team because red is our color," said Capt. James Zoizack, the battery's operations officer. The Harker Heights, Texas, native explained the artillery branch's color is red. "But it was a good match, and it meant a lot to our Soldiers."

The competition excited the crowd, and exuberant cheers were heard throughout the stadium. Soldiers stood side-by-side with the locals, rooting for either the red or white team, as the game came to an exciting finish.

Fortunately for Zoizack, the red team won the championship game. IP Lt. Mohammed presented medals to players from both teams, commending their sportsmanship and conduct throughout the entire season.

Zoizack recognized the volunteers who refereed throughout the season.

Page last updated Fri August 15th, 2008 at 16:11