Soldiers Give Soccer Equipment to Iraqi Children - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

10/28/05

Soldiers Give Soccer Equipment to Iraqi Children

Around the world, everywhere you go, you can see kids kicking soccer balls. Thousands of dollars worth of soccer equipment was literally dropped into Iraq for the children this week, and kicking a soccer ball around may actually help more than the children, including the soldiers from right here at home.

Hundreds of talented kids practice on soccer fields in Iraq, but never with equipment like they have now. "Many years working here, nobody there to come just to say hello or do something for the children, so this is the first time we are receiving goods for children," said Olympic soccer player Amu Babba, who runs six fields.

Several US sports stores donated $30,000 worth of equipment that was dropped into the country and delivered by Third ID soldiers.

"Some of the older generation may be set in their ways," said 1st Sgt. Mark Barnes. "Maybe if we can show them we have a human side, we care about kids and are passionate and playful."

Careful not to ruin the new soccer balls or jerseys provided by former the Olympic player, Third ID soldiers autographed the children's hands. Soldiers say making friends by kicking around a soccer ball could one day help to save their lives. "Eventually they may come up to us and tell us where a terrorist lives or where a weapons cache is or something helpful, because they like us and don't want to see us get hurt," said 1st Sgt. Barnes.

And no matter what, the children will always remember the day the soldiers brought them presents.

The soldiers try to actually play soccer with the children in the safe neighborhoods to keep up the good relations. They say they are even learning some tricks from kids as young as six years old.

Reported by: Kim Angelastro, kangelastro@wtoc.com

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