• BAGHDAD - Col. Timothy McGuire (left), of Alamo, Calif., commander of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Multi-National Division-Baghdad, administers the oath of reenlistment to Spc. John MacMurray at halftime of the combined forces soccer match at Shaab Stadium, May 23, in the Rusafa district of eastern Baghdad. MacMurray, of Minerva, Ohio, reenlisted for four more years of military service. MacMurray serves as an intelligence specialist for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd BCT, 82nd Abn. Div.

    BAGHDAD - Col. Timothy McGuire (left), of...

    BAGHDAD - Col. Timothy McGuire (left), of Alamo, Calif., commander of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Multi-National Division-Baghdad, administers the oath of reenlistment to Spc. John MacMurray at halftime of the combined forces...

  • BAGHDAD - Paratroopers assigned to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Multi-National Division-Baghdad, run to gain control of the ball during the finals of the combined forces soccer match at Shaab Stadium May 23 in the Rusafa district of eastern Baghdad. Four of the weekend's games were mixed U.S. - Iraqi combined teams that pinned them to compete against each other. The teams were assembled by the districts in which they work in.

    BAGHDAD - Paratroopers assigned to the 3rd...

    BAGHDAD - Paratroopers assigned to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Multi-National Division-Baghdad, run to gain control of the ball during the finals of the combined forces soccer match at Shaab Stadium May 23 in the Rusafa...

  • BAGHDAD - Yamam Nabeel (left), chief executive of FC Unity, holds a soccer ball donated by the "Kick for Nick" organization during the beginning of the final game of the combined forces tournament at Shaab Stadium May 23 in the Rusafa district of eastern Baghdad. The organization was founded in honor of Pfc. Nick Madaras, whose wish was to collect soccer balls and give them to the children of Iraq. Madaras was killed by an improvised explosive device while conducting combat operations Sept. 3, 2006.

    BAGHDAD - Yamam Nabeel (left), chief executive...

    BAGHDAD - Yamam Nabeel (left), chief executive of FC Unity, holds a soccer ball donated by the "Kick for Nick" organization during the beginning of the final game of the combined forces tournament at Shaab Stadium May 23 in the Rusafa district of...

  • BAGHDAD - National Police officers and spectators wave flags and cheer during a game at Shaab Stadium, May 23, in the Rusafa district of eastern Baghdad. Thirty-six soccer games,32 community games and four combined U.S.-Iraqi forces games, were played during the FC Unity tournament. FC Unity, a London-based organization, promotes the development of unity through soccer-based programs.

    BAGHDAD - National Police officers and...

    BAGHDAD - National Police officers and spectators wave flags and cheer during a game at Shaab Stadium, May 23, in the Rusafa district of eastern Baghdad. Thirty-six soccer games,32 community games and four combined U.S.-Iraqi forces games, were played...

  • BAGHDAD - A member of an Iraqi community soccer team attempts to control possession of the ball during a soccer game at Shaab Stadium, May 23, in the Rusafa district of eastern Baghdad. The game was part of the FC Unity tournament held this past weekend. Thirty-six soccer games, 32 community games and four combined U.S.-Iraqi forces games, were played during the tournament.

    BAGHDAD - A member of an Iraqi community soccer...

    BAGHDAD - A member of an Iraqi community soccer team attempts to control possession of the ball during a soccer game at Shaab Stadium, May 23, in the Rusafa district of eastern Baghdad. The game was part of the FC Unity tournament held this past...

  • BAGHDAD - A member of an Iraqi community soccer team tries to make a pass to his teammate during a soccer match at Shaab Stadium May 23 in the Rusafa district of eastern Baghdad. The game was part of the FC Unity tournament held this past weekend.

    BAGHDAD - A member of an Iraqi community soccer...

    BAGHDAD - A member of an Iraqi community soccer team tries to make a pass to his teammate during a soccer match at Shaab Stadium May 23 in the Rusafa district of eastern Baghdad. The game was part of the FC Unity tournament held this past weekend.

  • BAGHDAD - A member of an Iraqi community soccer team takes the ball down the field during a soccer match at Shaab Stadium, May 23, in the Rusafa district of eastern Baghdad. This game was one of 32 community games played throughout the weekend.

    BAGHDAD - A member of an Iraqi community soccer...

    BAGHDAD - A member of an Iraqi community soccer team takes the ball down the field during a soccer match at Shaab Stadium, May 23, in the Rusafa district of eastern Baghdad. This game was one of 32 community games played throughout the weekend.

BAGHDAD - Cheers, music and fun filled the famed Shaab stadium during a two-day soccer tournament held May 22 and 23 in eastern Baghdad's Rusafa district.

The tournament symbolizes the success of a month-long effort between FC Unity, a London-based organization, and U.S. and Iraqi officials to provide the people of Iraq a platform for development and education through a series of soccer programs.
As a sense of normalcy continues to fill the Iraqi capital, Paratroopers of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Multi-National Division-Baghdad and Iraqi Security Forces, wanted to demonstrate the improved security is here to stay.
"It is a normality of life that we can all come out here and play, Americans and Iraqis together and also Iraqis of different backgrounds regardless of their religious, ethnic and social backgrounds can come together and play football," said Yamam Nabeel, chief executive of FC Unity. "If people around the world can see how the U.S. military interacts with the Iraqi people, it shows a different picture to the world that the U.S. Army is here to help the Iraqis build a strong and viable society."
"We are here to bring smiles to the faces of the young people," he added.
The tournament, which was open to the public, consisted of 32 community games and four games combining American Soldiers and Iraqis Security Forces.
Prior to the opening ceremony, Paratroopers handed out soccer jerseys and other equipment to many of the children who participated in the event.
"We want to give the Iraqi people its culture back and a big part of that culture is sports, and in Iraq, sports means soccer," said Lt. Col. Michael Shinners in a television interview via satellite to the United States. Shinners, of Arlington, Va., serves as the deputy commander of the 3rd BCT, 82nd Abn. Div., based out of Fort Bragg, N.C.
For American Paratroopers participating in the event, playing soccer in a combat zone is something they could have never envisioned when they first deployed to Baghdad in late-2008.
"This is a huge step in what we are doing here," said Spc. John McMurray, an intelligence specialist assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd BCT, 82nd Abn. Div. "This event has really helped us earn the trust of the Iraqi citizens."
During halftime, McMurray took a break from the action and reenlisted in the middle of the field for an additional four years of military service. The Minerva, Ohio native said the experience of reenlisted in front of so many people is something he will always treasure.
The spirit of the weekend will live on in the minds of all who participated for years to come.
"We had a lot of fun this weekend, and we built great friendships with the American Soldiers," said one National Police officer. "That was the point of this weekend, to have fun and have a great time."

Page last updated Fri May 29th, 2009 at 10:51