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Operation Afghanistan: Soccer bridges the cultural gap in Afghanistan

 American soldiers, Afghan translators and Ugandan contractors come together every day to play soccer at Tactical Base Gamberi in Afghanistan. (KTUU)
American soldiers, Afghan translators and Ugandan contractors come together every day to play soccer at Tactical Base Gamberi in Afghanistan. (KTUU) (KTUU)
Published: Feb. 6, 2018 at 3:57 PM AKST
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On a small dirt field at Tactical Base Gamberi, surrounded by barbed wire, bunkers and soldiers standing guard, a whistle blows, and a soccer game begins.

It happens everyday at roughly 3:30 p.m. U.S. soldiers, Afghan translators and contractors from Uganda, each working and living on base, come together despite their obvious differences, to play the unifying game.

Once on the field, it doesn't really matter where they're from, what they believe in, or why they're here. The only thing that matters is soccer.

"We speak like four or five different languages between all of us," said Ssg. Michael Tkachenk, of the 4-25. "It's more than just a ball, a sport. It's about the people we come together with, and it more or less eases tension without knowing it."

Each game lasts about seven minutes, allowing the large crowd of players congregating on the sidelines, to get in on the action.

"It's all about friendship," said Moshtoba Shefa, an Afghan translator working for the U.S. military. "We play to get to know each other and create a friendship atmosphere."

Each day the game is played until the sun goes down behind the Black Mountain, but players say the friendships forged on the dirt field of TB Gamberi, in the middle of a war zone, last long after the final whistle blows.

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