Basketball Unites Djiboutian, U.S. People
Sports can bring people together and help them get to know one another through a common interest. That's been the case for a group of soldiers assigned to Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa and some Djiboutians.
Local school aged children and young males gathered with members of the U.S. Army Civil Affairs Team 4903 to play a game of basketball at the Ali Sabieh Middle School public court June 8.
The basketball game was an opportunity for the children and young adults to get to know the CAT service members, remain active, and have something to look forward to during their break from school.
"These basketball games gave the youngsters something to do. Besides having block rock wars with each other," said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Stanislava Ilic-Godfrey, 4903 CAT team sergeant and resident of Washington, D.C.
CAT 4903 members have been playing basketball with the children and young adults of Ali Sabieh weekly for some time now.
"We've actually been playing basketball every Friday since March," said U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Xochitl Barragan, 4903 CAT team leader and native of Ft. Worth, Texas.
Friday is ideal due to the free time available to the residents of Ali Sabieh.
"Friday is their holy day and gives them a day off, [which] gives us an option of engaging them while they have free time," said U.S. Army Spc. Leland Booher, Civil Affairs Team 4903 team member from McKinney, Texas.
Due to the high continuous turnout, the Djiboutian ministry of youth and sports organizer, Ibrahim Abdourahman, organized a tournament among 12 teams, including the CAT 4903 members.
"It was Ibrahim's brain child. We've actually been playing basketball every Friday since March, and it was Ibrahim who came up with the idea of a tournament," Barragan said.
With the help of the U.S. Embassy, Ibrahim purchased jerseys for 12 teams, polo shirts for the officials, basketballs, whistles, paint, nets, trophies, medals, as well as a disk jockey and cakes for the ceremony afterward.
The two-day tournament was held June 24 and July 1. A large number of players and spectators turned out both days for the event.
"It was a great way to unify the community by playing on friendly terms and getting to know each other on a personal level," Barragan said. "The [people of Ali Sabieh] showed their support and good sportsmanship. People came to watch, brought their kids and stayed [the whole time]."
The basketball games have provided a backdrop for personal change in the citizens of Ali Sabieh, according to one soldier.
"I've heard from several teachers about a man who quit his [drug] addiction in order to play basketball with the Americans," said Barragan. "We hear stories [all the time] of how this person and that person want to change."
Not only were the people of Ali Sabieh affected by the games but CAT 4903 discovered changes within themselves and their unit.
"The tournament was the [most memorable event] for the whole team, we loved it. It was a nice, relaxed atmosphere. The whole experience has been very rewarding," said Barragan.