3/8 rolls competitors in Easter tournament

15 Apr 2004 |

Marines and sailors from 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment took top honors over the Chilean forces during an action-packed soccer tournament that ended with a tense shootout here April 11.The 15 man pick-up team brought together the day prior to the tournament defeated teams from Marine Air Ground Task Force-8 and the French forces, putting them into position to square off against the South American team in the finals.“We hadn’t been scored on all day so I felt really confident going into the finals,” said Lt. Joseph Crow, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment team coach.The team’s confidence was nixed late in the first half of the championship match when the Chileans went up one to nothing and several penalties resulted in a player ejection with only five-minutes remaining in the first half.“I think there was a lot of acting going on the field,” said Cpl. David Gonzalez, who was ejected from the game. “The ref called a lot of stuff on us that the Chileans were doing too.”The battalion’s hapless first half was mainly caused by the strict officiating according to Gonzalez. “The Chileans played a little rougher and had more tricks the ref didn’t see,” Gonzalez said.The reason behind the strict officiating was to ensure that everyone walked off the field in the same condition they walked on, according to Master Gunnery Sgt. David Heald, who officiated the game. “I just wanted the game to be fair, fun and safe and it was,” he explained. The second period gave way to high emotions as the game’s intensity spread from the field to the crowd. Both the Chileans and the Marines ran around the field waving flags, while cheering their team and chiding each other.“The crowd really got into it,” Crow said, “But it was all in good fun and it showed when they met in the middle [at the end of the game] and exchanged flags.”The U.S. fans were brought to their feet in the second half when Lance Cpl. John P. Buchnan, Company K, headed the ball off a corner kick into the post before kicking the rebounded ball hard into the net. At the end of the match the score was tied one to one, forcing a shootout between the teams.The Chileans were up first, their player sending a hard kick skimming over the goal. The U.S. team followed suit with a high kick. The second Chilean attempt flew wide right followed by the American team bouncing a shot off the post. The third Chilean shot proved successful as the ball glided into the back of the net. With the pressure to score mounting, Jargba, the U.S. team’s captain, delivered a shot tying the score at one.“When it comes to a shootout, the more people that miss, the harder the next shot becomes. I knew that if I didn’t score the next guy would have had even more pressure on him,” Jargba explained. The pressure back on, the U.S. goalkeeper deflected the Chileans’ next kick off his arm. Following the Chileans’ kick, with the score still tied, Petty Officer 1st Class Benjamin P. Hebert, corpsman with 3rd Battalion 8th Marine Regiment stepped up to the line trying to put the Americans ahead.“I took one look at the goalie and then just focused on the ball and visualized the goal in my head, trying to block out the noise and pressure from the crowd,” Hebert said.Hebert’s hard-rolling shot to the corner of the net put the battalion up one and the pressure on the Chileans.“After the kick went in, I was relieved and I thought to myself, all the goalie has to do is block the next kick.” Hebert said.With the pressure mounting, the Chilean kick was flat and rolled right into the hands of the goalie, Sgt. James Coleman, of Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, ending the game and sending the Marines into a frenzy. When the celebrations ended, both teams met on the field, shook hands, took pictures and exchanged flags. The tournament between the ten teams accomplished exactly what it was intended to, according to Col. Mark Gurganus, MAGTF-8 commander.“It was a great way to let off steam after 42 days of being here and it also helped strengthen the bond between the multinational forces here.”