CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, Iraq - Private First Class Cherie Johnson, a paralegal specialist with Division Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division, started playing soccer when she was 17. When her favorite soccer player, Zinedine Zidane won the World Cup with France in 1998, it made her so fascinated with soccer, she started going to parks and kicking the ball around in her hometown, Port More, Jamaica. She lived in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. until joining the Army.

She is one of many Soldiers and civilians who organized the 2010 Speicher Soccer Tournament on Contingency Operating Base Speicher.

Such events serve as a diversion for Soldiers doing their job while stationed at COB Speicher.

"It keeps their mind off of being here in Iraq," said Torin Berryhill, of Houston, and a Morale, Welfare and Recreation technician who helped the soccer players to organize the current tournament. "A lot of them go out of the wire and these games are a way to forget things like that."

Berryhill helped them put the brackets together and organize the event. He added the Soldiers put all of the teams together, advertised the games, and made the rules.

For Pfc. Johnson, this tournament gives her a way to express herself.
"Soccer is a way of life, it's like a religion," she said. "When you're playing it, it's like you're in a totally different world. You have your own control, the game can't disappoint you, you disappoint yourself."

Now, at the age of 25, she finds the time to pursue her passion even though she is in a combat zone. Even though she has only been playing soccer for eight years. She said Pfc. Johnson's talent has been noticed by her leadership.

She is preparing to try out for Army Women's Soccer Team. Her leadership believes she is a quality player and a quality Soldier and will be able to represent the Army.

"The Army doesn't let just anyone represent them," said Pfc. Johnson. "I feel great about that."
Private First Class Johnson is a member of the Task Force Real Madrid team and has the chance to be champion of this tourney.

The different games during the tourney become very passionate affairs with teams that have players from numerous countries including North America, Africa and Asia.

Playing soccer in Iraq is very challenging, according to Pfc. Johnson. Teams play on sand and gravel, making it very hard to stop and turn because the surface is slippery. The temperature also gets to about 105 degrees. Despite the temperature and the different surface, she continues to play because of the challenge, and she wants to show the Army has many good qualities as well.

"We want to show we're not just about war. We've got sports skills as well," Pfc. Johnson added.
The tournament began May 30 and will continue through June 5. All games will be played at the COB Speicher Stadium.