BAGHDAD - The love of soccer in Iraq is no secret. During a site assessment mission of local area soccer fields, U.S. Army paratroopers brought the spirit of the game and the legacy of a fallen Soldier to the neighborhoods of eastern Baghdad, April 18.

Paratroopers assigned to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Multi-National Division - Baghdad spread the love of the "world's game" to several eastern Baghdad soccer fields by donated soccer balls to area children.

The balls were donated by the "Kick for Nick" organization. The organization was founded in honor of Pfc. Nick Madaras, who was killed by an improvised explosive device while conducting combat operations in Baquba, Iraq on Sept. 3, 2006.

Nick wanted to help the children of Iraq and spread his love of soccer to the Iraqi children. While on leave from Iraq in July 2006, Nick collected as many soccer balls as he could in order to bring back to Iraq and distribute them to the children.

Unfortunately the 19 year-old Soldier from Wilton, Conn., would never get his opportunity to fulfill his goal. But his passion for the sport and his desire to share his love of the game inspired the founding of the organization in order to fulfill his wish.

During the assessment mission, Lt. Col. Michael Shinners, the deputy commander of 3rd BCT, 82nd Abn. Div., gathered several children while holding a donated ball with Nick Madaras name written on it. He then told them the story behind the ball.

"This ball was donated by the family of a Soldier who was killed here," he said. "He was a great soccer player and it was his wish to make sure you guys have this ball and play soccer. Here is a ball so you guys can play with and make sure you remember him."

Honoring Nick's memory was just one part of the day-long mission. Shinners traveled to several fields in the region to conduct a site survey in preparation for an upcoming series of soccer clinics and tournaments scheduled to be held in mid-May. The events will be organized and hosted by FC Unity and supported by Iraqi and U.S. officials.

FC Unity, a London-based organization aims to provide a platform for development and education through a series of soccer programs.

During a meeting with the Al-Madain regional sports community chairman, Shinners explained the organization will hold several training sessions and friendly games for children of all ages. The organization will also donate soccer equipment such as uniforms and balls to hundreds of children who participate in the program.

The news was received with great joy by the chairman. He then told Shinners the help will be much appreciated because 80 percent of the soccer equipment the area children have is self-dependant.

"This is a great gift for us," said Sa'ad Salmin. "This is a true sign of friendship and this will really help us fix some of the problems with our programs."

In the spirit of the event, Iraqi Security Forces and Coalition forces will also pair up from across eastern Baghdad and participate in a tournament as a symbol of partnership.

For more information on the Kick for Nick organization, please visit www.kickfornick.org.

For more information on the FC unity organization, please visit www.fcunity.com.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16