The 3rd Infantry Division has been celebrating its birthday this week with an array of athletic competitions.
Marne Week kicked off Tuesday with the first day of the soccer tournament. According to 2nd Lt. Conrad Bundy, operations officer with the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team and officer in charge of the tourney, 32 teams competed.
“The first day was prelims, then quarter finals,” Bundy said. “This morning we started the final playoffs. This afternoon is the final game. The 87th (Combat Sustainment Support Battalion) is playing the 4-3 (Brigade Special Troops Battalion).”
Bundy, who played soccer in high school and managed his college soccer team, said after two days of running, kicking and sliding in the dirt on Fort Stewart’s Donovan Field no one had been injured. Just in case, however, he’s had medics on stand-by.
“All the teams have displayed good sportsmanship both days,” he said. “There hasn’t been too much rough play. We have Staff Sgt. (David) Street, who’s a certified ref as our referee director and a couple other refs helping to keep the play clean.”
Street, whose normal duties are serving as platoon sergeant for the 3rd ID’s Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion command group, said he’s been a certified soccer referee for about 18 years. Throughout his Army career, when he isn’t playing in soccer tournaments, he is serving as a referee.
“I was playing soccer when it wasn’t cool to play soccer,” Street said. “Now everybody’s playing. One of the beautiful things about soccer is you don’t have to be a big guy, or even be a guy, for that matter. You’ll notice our teams have both male and female soldiers on the same team.”
Street said another thing about soccer that probably lends to its global popularity is that you don’t have to have a lot of equipment. All players need is a good pair of running shoes and a soccer ball, he said.
Because so many teams competed in this year’s tournament, Bundy and Street said each match had to be shortened. Instead of two 45-minute halves, games were shortened to 30-minute halves. Teams were allowed to take a break after 15 minutes.
Street noted that although games were shorter, each team had the full 11 members on the field, counting the goalie. Teams were, however, limited to 20 players to ensure that everyone got a chance to play, regardless of skill level.
Street said each day of competition started at 9 a.m. and ended when the sun went down. He said starting that early was particularly challenging when the wind chill made temperatures feel like it was only 20 degrees.
Play was slow early in the final game Wednesday afternoon. The 87th CSSB players were wearing red jerseys with gold lettering, and the 4-3 BSTB wearing green slip-over jerseys. Right away, it appeared the 4-3 would dominate the game, keeping the pressure on the 87th goalie.
At one point during the first half, a female player with the 4-3 made a slide tackle, stealing the ball from a male 87th player. And though the drive to the goal proved unsuccessful, the pressure stayed on until 4-3 scored the only goal in the game. They won the tournament with the 1-0.
“If there had been a tie, we’d have had a shootout to break the tie,” Street said. “I think Marne Week competitions are great for building esprit de corps and comradery. But it’s really all about the competition and who’s going to win.”