Building friendships one soccer game at a time
Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa
Personnel from Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa joined with Chebelley Village residents to battle it out on the soccer field at Chebelley, Djibouti, April 29, 2015.
The Chebelley Village Game Night, hosted by the U.S. Army’s 404th Civil Affairs Battalion (Airborne), is a monthly soccer match designed to grow and develop the continuing friendship between the camp and the town.
“The night is about getting the people out for something positive,” said Sgt. 1st Class Charles Williams, 404th CA BN Alpha Company medical NCO. “It’s definitely a morale booster, and it makes the community happy when we go there and play soccer.”
The game nights began more than a year ago, thanks to the efforts of previous civil affairs units, and remain a monthly staple with lasting effects.
“It’s helped us from the standpoint that we have a community more receptive to us,” said Sgt. Jared Burgan, 404th CA BN Alpha Company civil affairs sergeant. “We aren’t strangers to them when we show up to their villages and that helps build bridges and create positive future interactions down the road. Whether it’s helping to create jobs, bettering education or bettering the lives of women and children in these villages, the seed is already planted through something as simple as a soccer game.”
With more than 250 million players worldwide, soccer is a language all its own, making the game the perfect way to build friendships and have some fun, regardless of cultural differences.
“People here on both sides want to have fun and play soccer,” Williams said. “This game is about binding cultures together on the field; and binding different races ethnicities and cultures together has definitely been a positive thing.”
Ultimately, the Chebelley Village Game night is about trust and growing partnerships.
“As time goes on and we expand, it’s important to build trust and get people comfortable with us,” said Williams. “We must also engage with them to find out what we can do to help out and how we can work together to make this a joint effort. One of our goals is to help our host nation, and that’s what we are here for. We just want them to know that we are here to help.”