Volunteer coaches make sure buidling teamwork, friendships remains team's most important 'goals'.

by Susan Silpasornprasit
IMCOM-K Public Affairs

April 19 marked the second game for Eighth Army's Good Neighbor Youth Soccer Team. Youth ages 10 to 12 years enjoyed a friendly game of soccer with a Korean team from the Gangnam district on the field at Yongsan Garrison. Although the two teams played to win, the true goal of the day's event was to promote good relations between children in the Army community and their Korean counterparts.

MSgt. Josue Morales, a volunteer coach for the Good Neighbor youth team, expressed his pride in the team's improvements since the first game. "There's been an improvement in teamwork and fundamentals of soccer," he said. "They're playing their positions, distributing the ball and playing as a team." Learning the different positions teaches the players to rely on and trust their teammates, Morales explained. "It's a game of 11," he said. "Everyone has something to give to the team."

The Good Neighbor Team plays Korean soccer teams year-round. It was created as a branch of 8th Army's adult Good Neighbor Programs. The matches reinforce good relations with the host country by bringing youth together to share their skills and bond over the game of soccer.
But soccer isn't the only event the children partake in. Each soccer match includes an additional group activity before or after the game. Last week, the two teams enjoyed lunch at the Yongsan's food court. The children paired off, the American children helping their Korean "neighbors" order their meals.

Ung Sellen, 8th Army's Host Nation Specialist and volunteer referee for the April 19 game, acknowledged the generosity of spirit displayed by the Korean and U.S. Army communities in bringing the soccer team together. The team has a Korean sponsor providing support such as uniforms and the coaches are all volunteers from within 8th Army, he explained. "The goal of the Good Neighbor youth soccer team is to build friendships and teamwork among players," Sellen said. "We want the children to interect and get to know each other through the game."
The 8th Army Good Neighbor Youth Soccer Team began practicing in January and now have two practices per week. They will continue to play Korean youth soccer teams throughout the year
"Whether we win or lose, we approach the game with the same ethics-to get the kids out to have fun and learn the game of soccer," Morales said.

Soccer is an avenue to friendship for the Good Neighbor Program. The teams are given an opportunity to share tips and skills on the field before the matches begin. A rematch with another Korean team is already being discussed, paving the way for a friendly reunion between children who are learning to build new skills and new relationships.