World Cup fever hits RAF Mildenhall

Air Force graphic/Staff Sgt. Austin May

Air Force graphic/Staff Sgt. Austin May

Yanks and Blokes alike have reason to be bummed this Monday morning after two very disappointing results for the U.S. and England over the weekend. The Americans blew a golden opportunity to advance to the quarterfinals for only the second time since 1930 and the English got trashed by their chief rival, the Germans.

The epicenter for the pain may be a U.S. base in England. Tech Sgt. Kevin Wallace, who is stationed at RAF Mildenhall, wrote this last week about what it’s like to live in England during the World Cup so we wanted to turn the floor to him. After Action always encourages reader submissions.  Enjoy.

In training missions and real-world operations, NATO allies work together seamlessly, executing their orders with unwavering precision.

Helping continue worldly freedom and stability is the fact that the Alliance persists to work as one team.

However, when it comes to sports, all bets are off – and there’s no finer example of this than the current banter being stirred up around the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.

From here in England, one doesn’t have to go far to see national pride smugly on display. In fact, every third British car is literally draped with English flags, and an equal amount of American pride is evident on several Royal Air Force bases in East Anglia.

“As a true England fan, and a serviceman who has worked alongside our American allies in Iraq, I was under no illusion that the game against USA was going to be tough,” said Flight Lieutenant Al Pluckrose, a physical education officer at RAF Honington. “My heart said England would win but my brain told me it would be a draw, and so it turned out.”

When considering that the majority of the US team plays in Europe for top quality teams, and USA beat Spain in the Confederations Cup last year, a draw is really not that surprising and certainly not a bad result, said Flight Lieutenant Pluckrose.

“I thank the USA for warming us up for the Tournament and from now on you will see the real England as we defeat Algeria and Slovenia and charge onwards to glory!” he added.

Contrasting the flight lieutenant’s view, one German-American currently stationed in the land of bratwurst and beer, sees Team USA as being a likely winner. Even so, he glorified the German team but volleyed the imminent win to whoever wants it most.

“The best team should win,” said Master Sgt. Steven Bauch, 1st Combat Communications Squadron operations and readiness chief, Ramstein Air Base, Germany. “I hope the World Cup can serve as a bridge between nations and continents [because]I love the competition and rivalry between the nations.”

The master sergeant wasn’t the only German tooting his ‘vuvuzela,’ a controversially loud African instrument, and lauding his nation’s coming triumph. Over at a NATO Headquarters, a German spokesman came out of his goal to clearly cut down the angle of opposing teams’ attacks.

“The first match for [our]national team was quite a surprise to many in Germany as they played very well. The odds had not been too good, because some players – believed to be the team’s mainstays – could not travel to South Africa after they got injured during the football season,” said Manfred Reudenbach from Headquarters Allied Air Command Ramstein.

Mr. Reudenbach then went on to dribble his own attacks forward, citing how Germany recently scored four goals against Australia, calling the Aussies “socceroos,” and adding testament to the ongoing repartee between these friendly nations.

Of course, talking smack alone won’t be enough for Germany to win the cup; they’ll have to confirm their great performance against what Mr. Reudenbach called, “stronger teams.” According to him, Germany will prevail.

Hailing from Kevelaer, a small town on the German-Dutch border, Mr. Reudenbach knows firsthand what challenges lie due east.

“Foul” is the way a Dutch neighbor described the German propaganda, and then took his free kick.

“We Dutch people are very soccer minded. It’s the country’s number one sport,” said Corporal 1st Class Cristian Schrik, a crew chief for the Royal Netherlands Air Force’s 322nd Fighter Squadron.

Although he admitted that France, Germany or Brazil have a fair chance of taking home the cup, Corporal Schrik’s glory is placed squarely on Holland, and looks forward to returning to his hometown Leeuwarden to celebrate their impending victory.

For a European neighbor due south, keeping possession of a win could raise the pride in their nation, especially in this time of economic crisis, said Eduardo Lima, a community relations advisor for Lajes Field, Portugal.

“I believe Portugal will do well in this World Cup, although it has some tough adversaries such as Brazil and Ivory Coast. I just finished watching the match between Portugal and Ivory Coast and, although I’m a little disappointed, I still believe Portugal has many chances of going far in this cup,” said Mr. Lima, who hails from Praia da Vitoria, Terceira, Azores.

Next to Portugal, Mr. Lima would like to see the Ivory Coast win because, “it would be important for Africa to have a team in that position.”

Looking back across the Atlantic toward the Americas, hopes run just as high for hometown victories. However, being as ethnically diverse as USA is, sports-related loyalties can sometimes be split between two nations.

“I waited months to see Mexico win, so it was hard to see the tie between Mexico and South Africa with the very first match,” said Airman 1st Class Tatiana Reyna, 100th Maintenance Squadron aerospace ground equipment mechanic.

With Mexican-American blood pumping through her veins, Airman Reyna feels torn between wanting to see Mexico and USA take home the cup. However, thinking logically she admits that Team Mexico has a much better chance at winning than USA does.

“I’m impressed with how much better USA has gotten in my lifetime,” said the 22-year-old San Antonio native. “I hope we’re ready to be the top team and would sure love to see it happen.”

Whipping out his yellow card and booking Airman Reyna, Senior Airman Carlos Sanchez, also stationed at RAF Mildenhall, clearly disagreed.

The Queens, N.Y., native said Team USA is not quite ready to win the top honor. He was just glad to see America there because both his parents are from Colombia and that country didn’t even qualify this year.

Still, Airman Sanchez has high hopes for Columbia qualifying in 2014 and believes Spain or Argentina will take home this year’s glory.

Though the Allies continue to support each other on the fields of battle in Afghanistan and elsewhere, not much camaraderie is on display pertaining to the ‘ongoing operations’ on the soccer pitches of South Africa. As no one denied, sports would not be sports without friends having the autonomy to bicker the outcomes.

Yet all agreed that when they return to their missions in the land, sea and skies – it’s all back to one team, one fight!


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