Island Warriors play friendly soccer match against Meio University
CAMP COURTNEY, OKINAWA, Japan -- Grass and dirt fly off the cleats of a Marine as he races toward a soccer ball, maneuvering it away from his opponents and dribbling down the field.
The Island Warriors, a soccer team consisting of Marines and sailors with 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, played a friendly soccer match against students with the Meio University Football Club May 11 on Camp Courtney.
The Marines and sailors on the Island Warriors team are with 2nd Bn., 3rd Marines, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force.
The game was a way for everyone to have fun and demonstrated the commitment U.S. military members have to further improve their positive relationship with the people of Okinawa, according to Chief Warrant Officer Anton J. Cuevas, the coach for the Island Warriors and a chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear defense specialist with the battalion.
“The interactions show that we’re not just a military force, but that we also have a sincere concern for the (community),” said Cuevas, a Fayetteville, N.C., native.
The match started as the university team kicked off. The teams struggled for supremacy during the first few minutes until Meio FC scored the first goal.
“I didn’t think they were going to be that good at the beginning,” said Sgt. Kyle J. Twigg, a defenseman for the Island Warriors and field radio operator with the battalion. “They blew my mind.”
The Island Warriors soon retaliated with a goal of their own, tying the game. At first, the teams seemed evenly matched, until Meio FC took control and scored a second goal. The first 30-minute period ended with Meio FC ahead, 2-1.
The match consisted of three 30-minute periods, rather than two 45-minute halves in typical soccer matches. Following a short break, the Island Warriors kicked off the second period, but shortly after the start, Meio FC scored again.
“They played at a different pace than we were ready for,” said Cuevas. “It’s a humbling experience seeing what caliber these individuals play at.”
The second period ended with Meio FC dominating, 3-1. The Island Warriors were still determined to win and started the third period with a goal. The teams battled until Meio FC scored two more times, winning the match 5-2.
“You see where you stand physically with these guys,” said Twigg, a Honolulu, Hawaii, native. “These guys are tremendous athletes.”
The teams lined up in the middle of the field and shook hands to congratulate each other on a well-played game. According to Cuevas, both teams had fun and would enjoy playing again.
“If we have the opportunity, we would love to play the Island Warriors again,” said Wataru Fukuhara, a Meio FC striker and a Hiroshima prefecture, Japan, native.
This game was an opportunity for both teams to experience how people from other countries play, according to Cuevas.
“Playing soccer, where I’m from, we don’t get the privilege to challenge an international team,” said Twigg.
After the match, Cuevas presented a plaque to the Meio FC coach to thank the team for participating. They concluded the sports day by having a cookout for all the participants.
The game was challenging for the Island Warriors, and even though they lost, they enjoyed getting out and competing against Meio FC, according to Twigg.
“My favorite part, believe it or not, was getting beat and learning what I can improve on,” said Twigg.