CAMP FOSTER, OKINAWA, Japan -- Soccer players from Yomitan Elementary School’s team and Marine Corps Community Services’ youth team, The Bandits, came together for the MCCS’ Friendship Soccer Game March 11 aboard Camp Foster.
To begin the event, players were divided into two teams; the teams were an even mix of the Yomitan Elementary players and the MCCS’ team. Each team had an English and a Japanese speaking coach to help bridge the language gap.
The players took their positions on the field preparing to kick off. They smirked at one another, showing they liked their new teams and playing against their own teammates. Players laughed as they outmaneuvered one another throughout the game.
“This was our first time on base getting to play with American children,” said Uechi Katsutoshi, coach of the Yomitan elementary school team. “It was nice to experience the American culture and how they play soccer.”
While on the sidelines the players laughed and played different Japanese and American games to decide who would substitute in to the game next.
“Everyone was very welcoming, and the American assistant coach helped me a lot,” said Katsutoshi. “The kids communicated well with each other and had a lot of fun.”
The competitiveness existed, but the kids were more focused on having fun and cheering for each other.
“I think events like this will definitely help build strong relationships as children interact with each other,” said Robert Wilson, the coach of the Bandits. “And hopefully it’ll give them a positive outlook on relationships between Japanese and Americans as they get older.”
The teams were so evenly matched that both teams were struggling to score.
“Events like this teaches how other cultures play the sport using the same set of rules,” said Wilson.
During the game, players joked competitively with the other team saying, “I’m going to pass you!”
After the game, Yomitan players were excited to end the game in traditional American style. The teams each formed a column and headed towards each other, high-fiving, and saying “Good game,” “Thank you” or complimenting each player they passed.
“It was wonderful to see them playing together and making new friends during this competitive but friendly game,” said Satoru Sakumoto, the MCCS youth sports coordinator. “We hope to do this again soon.”
After the players and coaches thanked and congratulated each other, the head coaches of the teams exchanged gifts.
“We would love to come play every day if it were possible,” said Katsutoshi.