MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan -- Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni residents and Japanese locals gathered at the Suo-Oshima Athletic Field for the U.S.-Japan Children Soccer event in Suo-Oshima, Japan, Oct. 2, 2016.
As part of good keeping with the U.S.-Japanese relationship, soccer broke the barrier of communication through words and taught children communication through actions.
MCAS Iwakuni’s station commanding officer viewed the event as a bridge between cultures.
“This soccer event is a great opportunity to make new friends,” said Col. Richard F. Fuerst, station commanding officer. “Sports don’t require a translator to help you understand and cooperate with fellow athletes. It’s an effective way to build relations and ties between the communities.”
To make the most of the experience, teams received coaches of each nationality and a translator. The teams were also comprised of Japanese and American children.
“Japan has been keeping good relations with the U.S.,” said Takumi Shiiki, mayor of Suo-Oshima Town. “I hope the children will be able to advance further with each other and make new friends despite the language barrier.”
The children warmed up prior to playing soccer through various games and challenges.
Gathered in a circle, Japanese and American children played a game of Doro-kei, a game similar to the American “Cops and Robbers”.
“Getting out here and playing games is a good time,” said Capt. Dustin B. Mann, a coach for one team and aviation safety officer for MCAS Iwakuni. “It’s really fun to watch these kids laugh and enjoy time together.”
With adrenaline flowing from Doro-kei, children began soccer drills that tested their accuracy and ability to score at different lengths of the field. While cheering each other on, players aimed to kick the ball at 30 meters into a goal through cones simulating defenders.
Playing with the Japanese children opened a door to new experiences for the American children.
“Some of the rules the Japanese play by, our kids don’t,” said Mann. “I will take those rules back, as well as some of the ball handling practices that they do and implement them into our practices.”
After several warm-ups, children split into their teams and took the field to finish the day with competitive and friendly games of soccer.
“It’s really something special to have the Japanese and Americans play soccer together without needing translation,” said Mann. “Sports are a universal language and they’re able to figure out what they need to do without ever speaking a word.”
The U.S.-Japan Children Soccer event is another milestone of breaking barriers between MCAS Iwakuni and the local Japanese community.
“I want to thank everyone from both communities for participating,” said Fuerst. “I believe today’s exchange will remain as a very fine memory for many years.”