BAGHDAD, Iraq—The temperature was only 105 degrees, and as the sun dropped a little breeze came up.
An imam chanted into a scratchy microphone. The Iraqi and U.S. national anthems got the same scratchy treatment as T-shirted U.S. 1st Armor Division troops stood at rigid attention.
Except for the tanks guarding the field, the sniper on a nearby roof, the weapons check at the gate and the bilingual din, the soccer match could have been in suburban America.
"It's part of our desire to make this place good again, for all of us," explained Lt. John Turner, who'd had the dusty lot cleared and invited the locals to take on the U.S. Army.
The Americans lost 8-1, then shook hands with the victors. Afterward, players and spectators chattered a bit more naturally.
(Vaughn-Lahman is a photographer for the San Jose Mercury News.)
(c) 2003, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.
PHOTOS (from KRT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): USIRAQ-SOCCER