By Spc. Jared Eastman 1st BCT-A, 3rd ID, USD-CMarch 31, 2010
BAGHDAD - Iraqi and American brothers put shoes to dirt for a soccer tournament March 25 at Forward Operating Base Falcon.
Fifth Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, played 5th and 7th Brigade Federal Police, 2nd Federal Police Division, in three action-packed games to determine who the best security team in southern Baghdad.
The three teams drew cards to determine who would play first. The cards fell to 5/2 and 7/2. While the competition proved fierce between them, the teams had a lighter motive.
"It was a very good feeling," said Adel Abed Ali, 7/2 Iraqi team captain. "We enjoyed this time and are looking forward to more tournaments."
Although the 5/2 played a strong game, they ultimately lost to 7/2, and had to face off against the Americans. A combination of Iraqi and American music blasted from speakers set on either side of the field as the two team captains waited for the coin toss.
"[These games] let the Iraqis know that we are the same as they are," said Staff Sgt. Michael Simione, soccer team captain and a Soldier in B Troop, 5/7 Cavalry. "A lot of the interaction they have with us is very controlled. They see us at work and we see them at work. This is how nations make friends. You never really know somebody until you've played against them; it was really good to see another side of people out there."
As the game progressed, U.S. and Iraqi spectators took friendly jabs at one another from across the field with good-natured intent.
"I've played soccer for pretty much my whole life," said Sgt. Guillermo Roman, C Troop, 5/7 Cavalry. "It felt great to come out here and play with my team. It was fun playing against the Iraqis. I felt like I was back in a real tournament."
After a fierce, competitive game that caused some bloody shins and a few bruises, 5/7 Cavalry came out on top.
"We did great today," said Simione. "We really came together as a team. To play against a team that was of equal skill was awesome."
However, the tournament was not yet complete.
After a short reprieve, 5/7 Cavalry marched back on to the field to face 7/2 IFP for the 1st place title. Even the music was halted for the coin toss and the kick off, as both Iraqis and Americans watched in rapt attention to see which team had the advantage. At the half, with a score of 1-0, 5/7 Cavalry held on to the lead.
"We are better today," said Ali. "We enjoyed the game, especially with a friendly team. This is an honor for us to play with the American team and our fellow Iraqi Security Forces."
Soon after the half, the Iraqis scored a goal for the equalizer, 1-1.
The second half was filled with plenty of near misses on both sides, which caused the crowd to shout more intently. With only two minutes left and the score still tied, both sides fought hard for control of the ball. With only 20 seconds left on the clock, 7/2 IFP scored the winning goal. Although 5/7 Cavalry had tried their hardest, they couldn't penetrate the Iraqi defense.
"I am very proud of my team," said Ali. "We worked hard today. This is a win for all of Iraq, not just the Federal Police, and I dedicate this win to all the Iraqi people."
Roman smiled and took it all in stride.
"I think it's important to do other things with the Iraqis because it brings cohesion and builds trust," said Roman. "I definitely made a lot of friends, and possibly a friendly enemy or two."