TURBO, Colombia (NNS) -- They practiced restlessly in the blazing Colombian sun, awaiting the arrival of their opponents, the Colombian armada.
For the U.S. Navy Sailors assigned to hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20), the last day in Turbo, Colombia, meant more than just preparing for their next stop in Riohacha.
The Sailors practiced their footwork, as a group of men in jerseys matching the yellow of the sun stepped onto the field. The teams approached and met in the center of the field embracing each other with smiles, ready to engage in friendly competition.
Despite the language barrier, indistinct chatter was heard amongst the teams as they interacted with one another. Shortly after meeting, the game kicked-off.
Throughout the game, it became clear that sport knows no language.
The intensity of the game grew more and more as time passed. Goal after goal, the teams grew fatigued but kept up the motivation. The intense heat and humidity became more noticeable as their shirts were drenched in sweat and their faces glistened with intensity.
Finally, halftime was called and they were able to take a breather so everyone could re-charge.
“I love being out here,” said Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Anthony Genuino, still catching his breath after an intense first half. “It gives us an opportunity to learn from each other. Even though we’re different militaries, we all love the same sport.”
In addition to the Sailors, there were non-governmental organization volunteers involved in the soccer game.
Aldo Buffa, a nurse from the White Helmets of Argentina and embarked aboard Comfort, played alongside the U.S. Navy Sailors in this game.
“I am collaborating in the Enduring Promise mission,” said Buffa, translated from Spanish. “We are sharing a friendly game with the Colombian armada as a form of appreciation and relaxation after the work is done.”
Buffa came aboard between the mission stops of Peru and Colombia. Although this was his first stop aboard Comfort, he integrated with the Sailors seamlessly.
“I am very happy to be able to play on behalf of the Comfort and to be playing with our Colombian comrades,” said Buffa. “I’m proud and happy to be here.”
It was evident on both sides that this event meant a lot to the players.
“I think it’s great to integrate and experience cultural exchange through sport,” said Colombian armada First Corporal John Acevedo, translated from Spanish.
The Colombian team expressed gratitude and satisfaction with the game.
“This has been a great time,” said Colombian armada First Corporal Henry Pulido, translated from Spanish. “You can tell the friendship between our cultures is strong. These types of opportunities are rare in our country, therefore it’s a great opportunity to share cultures.”
In the end, the Colombian armada won the game, but the U.S. Navy Sailors won the lasting, international friendship of their Colombian counterparts.
Upon conclusion, the teams shared high-fives and hugs. They commended each other on a great game, and the Comfort team presented the Colombian team with a plaque.
Comfort is on an 11-week medical support mission to Central and South America as part of U.S. Southern Command’s Enduring Promise initiative. Working with health and government partners in Ecuador, Peru, Colombia and Honduras, the embarked medical team will provide care on board and at land-based medical sites, helping to relieve pressure on national medical systems caused partly by an increase in cross-border migrants. The deployment reflects the United States’ enduring promise of friendship, partnership and solidarity with the Americas.
For more news from U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command & U.S. 4th Fleet, visit www.navy.mil/local/cusns/.