FALLUJAH, Iraq --
Fallujah citizens gathered in large numbers to kick off the “Fallujah Cup” soccer tournament here, Dec. 14.
Soccer, a favorite sport among Iraqis, was chosen as the first organized sporting event the city would embrace as a result of improved security in the area.
“This is kind of a microcosm of everything that is going well right here in Fallujah, and this is a culminating event,” said 2nd Lt. Gregory Collins, the platoon commander of 2nd Platoon, Company K, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 6.
Collins initiated the request to bring the community together through the sport. He helped facilitate the organization of the tournament and helped obtain uniforms that were donated to the participating teams.
The amateur league welcomed soccer players of all ages to try out for the teams. Soccer players throughout the city signed up and were organized into 21 teams to compete. Each team represented one of the 10 districts of Fallujah.
The event began with an opening ceremony presenting all 21 teams to the field and an exhibition of Fallujah’s tae kwon do martial arts program.
Competition began with two of the best teams facing off for an entertaining game opener.
More than 70 invitations were handed out to special guests for seating in the VIP tent for the event. Among those invited were commanding officers and Marines with 3rd Bn.,5th Marines. Also invited were the city mayor, police chiefs and the sheiks, muktars and Imams from the surrounding areas.
“They wanted us here just to be able to see how well things are progressing here in Fallujah,” said Collins. “They’re very proud of everything they’ve accomplished because of the security increase. Everything that is going on is all built through the Iraqi police and through the local leadership taking hold of the city.”
Preparations for the tournament began with local contractors who brought in heavy equipment to remove all extra rubble to clear the fields and locals were paid to help rid the fields of the trash.
A town hall meeting was held a week prior to the event to bring the teams together to collect official rosters and coordinate on the FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) rules the tournament would follow.
For the remainder of the month, the 21 teams will play it out for the championship of Fallujah.
There are already plans to add a 12-20 youth soccer league. Volleyball, handball and bicycle tournaments are also hopeful additions to the range of sports events for the city.