Watching the World Cup on the job, Afghanistan style

Landon Donovan scores the game-winner past Algeria goalkeeper Rais M'Bolhi. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

Landon Donovan scores the game-winner past Algeria goalkeeper Rais M'Bolhi. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

Maj. Roy Nickerson and a group of soldiers at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan did their best to watch today’s epic U.S.-Algeria World Cup match on TV. But as you might expect, the realities of war zone life did not make it easy.

In the end, Nickerson, a member of the 101st Airborne, was able to witness Landon Donovan’s game-winning goal. Sort of. Read his description of the scene at Bagram and you’ll understand:

Tonight I was not able to partake in most of the festivities surrounding the US-Algeria World Cup Soccer match. “Festivities” at our location essentially equates to a near-beer and dozens of folks who hardly know anything about soccer sitting around a small television screen waiting for the US to score a goal. All-important meetings caused my absence for about 90% of the game.

My duties led me to the operations center floor. The place looks like a bad set depicting NASA Mission Control in a low-budget action flick. But fortunately, one of the larger television screens was airing the game in its final minutes. Now, the operations center hums with quiet conversations because should it get too loud, you get a speech from a guy whose job it is to give angry speeches about the importance of being quiet and not being loud … and he’s loud about it. I’ve heard this speech many times and it’s annoying, so I’m quiet along with the other folks that work there.

The game was tied at zero and as the time ticked on, more and more folks became engaged. Then suddenly, it was announced that some maintenance would have to occur so the all-important screen showing the game was turned off. Finally, after waiting an excruciatingly long time, the game turned back on and we watched as Landon Donavan scored the winning goal. Of course, we missed it live and were watching the replay, but at the time, we didn’t know. Remember — it’s still darned quiet. That is unless you count the one surprisingly effeminate yelp that leapt from my mouth in a group of many, many steely-eyed warriors. It was hard to play that one off. I most certainly lost some “cool points.” Actually, I probably went into cool debt, but it was worth it.

U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!


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