Presidio Soldier to compete in Military World Games
July 12, 2011
PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. - Capt. Christina Acojedo is used to being overseas as part of her military duty: she has served two 1-year deployments to Iraq. But this July Acojedo will be traveling in a different direction as she joins the U.S. All-Armed Forces Women’s Soccer Team while they compete in the Military World Games, July 16-24 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
“The Military World Games bring together thousands of military athletes,” says Acojedo. “It’s kind of like the military version of the Olympics, complete with Olympic village-style military accommodations.”
And like its Olympic counterpart, The Military World Games are held every four years since the inaugural event in Rome in 1995. Ninety-three nations competed that year in 17 different sporting events to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II.
Acojedo began playing soccer when she was five, while growing up in San Jose, Calif.
“I played because everyone else was playing,” recalls Acojedo. “All my friends were doing sports and I just wanted to play with my friends.”
Acojedo is a force to be reckoned with in the defense, despite her small stature. She expects during the competition in Brazil to be playing the “Stopper” position, arguably the heart of the defensive line.
“Around the time of middle school I just fell in love with playing defense,” Acojedo explains.
Acojedo says it doesn’t bother her that goal scorers tend to receive the majority share of attention, since it’s a team sport with 11 people on the field working together. And it hasn’t stopped her from earning a little attention of her own, garnering two MVP titles on her high school team during her four-year varsity stint.
No stranger to balancing soccer within a military lifestyle, Acojedo began her Army soccer experience as a Division I walk-on during her freshman year at West Point.
“The women’s soccer program was growing with the recent success of the U.S. Women’s World Cup and Olympic Championship Teams and a lot of us grew up following stars like Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy and Brandy Chastain,” Acojedo explains. “The West Point (women’s soccer) Team used to be comprised of just recruited players, but began tryouts to accommodate the increased interest.”
After a 4-year hiatus from soccer Acojedo returned to the pitch and was selected to the All-Army Team in 2006. The soccer program consolidated the service branch teams in 2007 to form the All-Armed Forces Team. Undaunted by the increased competition from the merger, Acojedo has made the cut every year since, with the exception of 2008 when a deployment kept her from trying out.
“Every year is different,” Acojedo says. “This year we had 36 or 38 players who came to tryouts and that roster got dwindled down to 18; two goalkeepers and 16 field players. Some years there are 50 people or more who tryout.”
Despite the high level of talent on the squad, Acojedo explained that it is often difficult to come together as a team due to the short amount of time allotted for training.
“It is disproportionate to other countries that for some it is their sole job within their military to play soccer,” conveys Acojedo. “Some countries have national level players on their team and integrate their military and national programs. At times we have competed against teams such as North Korea where we basically lost to the 2007 national team that just finished playing in the World Cup.”
Attending the Military World Games will be Acojedo’s first time to Brazil, considered by many as the Mecca of the soccer world. So what is she looking forward to most?
“Everything! I am looking forward to the whole experience,” Acojedo says with excitement. “To be able to come and represent your country in an international sporting event is a huge honor. Not a whole lot of people get an opportunity like this in life. The women competitors you get to play with are all amazing people, military service members and athletes. I cherish every moment I get to play with these people.”
Acojedo explains that the international competitions also afford many opportunities to meet and interact with players from other participating countries, adding that she has met soccer national team members and even Olympic medal winners.
“Every experience is a new experience,” says Acojedo. “We make new friends and find out what they do and how the other countries handle their military athletic programs.”
While Acojedo admits that sometimes it is difficult for commands to lose their officers, NCOs, or soldiers to participate in the sporting events, she adds that the military recognizes that we have outstanding athletes within our military ranks and they would like to afford them the opportunity to compete at the highest level. She says the most important thing to remember is that you’re a soldier first and an athlete second.
“We have a mission to maintain our professionalism and represent the U.S. Military and get the word out about what it is like to serve our country,” Acojedo says. “We remind people that our primary mission is to serve and while we do get to play a sport, this is not what we do 365 days a year.”
The fifth Military World Games will be the largest military sport event ever in Brazil, gathering 8,000 participants from over 100 countries. Twenty sports will be competing; some for the first time in military world games, such as beach volleyball.
The event is organized by the Conseil International du Sports Militaire (CISM), according to its website, it is one of the largest multidisciplinary organizations in the world. CISM has implemented projects in conjunction with the IOC (International Olympic Committee) and United Nations and involving the Armed Forces of all its 133 member countries. Its mission statement reads: “Our ultimate goal is to contribute to world peace by uniting armed forces through sports. The motto under which we operate is ‘Friendship through Sport’.”
Correction Statement (July 18, 2011): Acojedo did not play for the 2008 All Armed-Forces team due to attending school at Ft. Gordon and did play in 2007 while deployed. Acojedo historically had played "Stopper" during her soccer career but she did not comment on which position she would play at the 2011 Military World Games. The number of MVP titles Acojedo had earned while attending high school could not be verified.