PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (NNS) -- As international teams met in the Olympics soccer quarterfinals, the USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) soccer team played a friendly match against the Port Moresby Soccer Association team Aug. 15, further strengthening relationships during Pacific Partnership 2008.
The match allowed the Mercy's team to have a day dedicated to interacting with the Port Moresby community by playing the world's most popular game.
The match drew a crowd in and around the bleachers, making the match that much more exciting for the Mercy team and the local New Guineans. Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Mario Gay, captain of team Mercy, used that excitement to score a goal in the first half.
"We had a good time out there, and the fact that we drew a little bit of a crowd added to the element of fun," said Gay. "The other team was very friendly, and gave us a good game of soccer."
When the referee's whistle blew to mark the half, players from each side hurried off the field to exchange pleasantries and get to know each other. While the first half of the match was a display of determined competition, the break was generally smiles and laughter as both teams mingled and took photos together.
The players then quenched their thirsts, discussed their respective game-time strategies, and ran back onto the field for the second half.
The ball whizzed back and forth, through the air and on the ground as both teams battled for control. Fatigue began to sneak its way onto the playing field, and Port Moresby's team capitalized by taking the lead and eventually winning the match with a score of 4-1.
"Whether we won or lost wasn't the point of us coming out here to play," said Chief Interior Communications Electrician (SW) Andrew Hurford. "It was about bonding together as a team off of the ship and getting to know the people of Papua New Guinea that much better."
The Pacific Partnership mission in Papua New Guinea has many different countries working together with the Mercy team. Partner nations, along with other non-governmental organizations such as Project Hope, Operation Smile and the University of California at San Diego Pre-dental Society, help make up the Mercy team and provide the government of Papua New Guinea with humanitarian civic assistance.
For more news from Pacific Partnership 2008, visit www.navy.mil/local/PP08/.