Members of Team USA and Team Rising Sun greet one another after the Tomodachi Bowl at Reid Memorial Stadium, Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan, March 10, 2019. DAVE ORNAUER/STARS AND STRIPES
Members of Team USA and Team Rising Sun greet one another after the Tomodachi Bowl at Reid Memorial Stadium, Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan, March 10, 2019. DAVE ORNAUER/STARS AND STRIPES

Friendly football matchup forged after tragedy continues to unite Americans, Japanese

by Dave Ornauer
Stars and Stripes

NAVAL AIR FACILITY ATSUGI, Japan — While the Tomodachi Bowl is a competitive football game, it also resonates as a cultural experience and a lifelong memory for the Americans and Japanese who go head to head the second Sunday of each March.

It also honors the partnership between American and Japanese militaries. They bonded eight years ago in the wake of the March 11, 2011, Great Tohoku Earthquake and resulting tsunami, to help rebuild portions of northeastern Japan devastated by the disaster.

“Nations have allies. People have friends,” said Fred Bales, football coach at Kubasaki High School at Camp Foster, Okinawa, and defensive coordinator for Team USA in Sunday’s 23-3 win over Team Rising Sun.

“This is about life education. It’s athletic, yes, but it’s cultural and it’s educational,” he said. “They go on the field and they speak a common language … the language of football. It’s well understood by both groups of guys. It immediately forges a lifetime bond.”

Read more at: https://www.stripes.com/1.572052

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