Friday, July 27, 2007


As the temperature climbs above 120 and the days seem to get longer and more frustrating, I can’t help but find myself looking forward to the start of training camp for the Philadelphia Eagles. There are a hundred other things I worry about on a daily basis, all admittedly more important, yet I can’t help from fantasizing about Brian Westbrook reaching 1,000 yards rushing this season and the Eagles playoff possibilities. I keep telling myself - once football season is here, this deployment will fly by. Since we get a handful of selected programs broadcast here via the Armed Forces Network, I will most surely get to see at least one football game per week, which will be something nice to look forward to.

My excitement for football season, however, pales in contrast to the excitement I see over here for the Iraqi National Soccer team. This is no joke - things basically shut down when the games are on so the Iraqi Soldiers can watch it on TV. On Wednesday, when the Iraqi team played the South Koreans, I needed one of the Iraqi Soldiers to load up a truck to prepare for the next day's shipment. We gave him instructions on what needed to be done, but when I saw his facial expression I stopped to think for a minute. Here was one of the better soldiers we had; dependable, reliable, hardly complains, willing to get the mission done. Although he was trying to hide his disappointment, when we asked him to do this job he readily agreed. His smile, though, betrayed him. Through his smile I could see clenched teeth; his eyes were squinted and his jawline taught. It was the smile of a proud man who just saw his dog get put to rest and he doesn't want to cry in front of anyone. (yes, dad, he looked strangely similar to a face I've seen you make!) So after he walked out the door to get started I ran after him and asked if he could get it done tomorrow morning, instead. I know this puts me at least 2 weeks back in getting them to do things today, not tomorrow, but sometimes you have to give a little to get a little. The expression on his face was worth it, too - relieved joy and a genuine smile. The he took off at a full sprint to watch the rest of the game.

The Iraqi's won, by the way. One habit that we had to mitigate for this game was the celebratory fire - luckily, they listened, because they realize we have guns too and might mistake their celebration for an attack. The article I linked to makes a great point about a united Iraq on the field and divided off the field. It may be a bit dramatic, but its journalism so it needs to be. I do agree with it, however. If there is one thing the Iraqi people can and will unite together for, its soccer. They play here everyday, and they play in the leagues sponsored by the coalition side of base. We escort the team of 12 over to play, and then escort the team of 200 Soldiers over to cheer on their team. There is not a single team that plays in these little tournaments that has the cheering section like our Iraqi's do.

So now this Sunday I have a different type of football game to look forward too. Iraq plays Saudi Arabia in the championship game, and the buzz around here is tremendous. It feels like being back in Philadelphia before the NFC Championship game - excitement, optimism, and brotherly love abound. Not exactly the emotions we encounter on a daily basis, yet a soccer team has brought them out. So there is some dramatic journalism from me; but sports, especially football, seem to bring that out in me. Except it looks like it's not just me that football has that kind of impact on . . .

1 comment:

David M said...

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