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Seaman Kim Hemenway, 22, just returned to her job as a postal clerk on the USS Blue Ridge after playing soccer against Germany, South Africa, France, Holland and all branches of the U.S. armed forces.

Seaman Kim Hemenway, 22, just returned to her job as a postal clerk on the USS Blue Ridge after playing soccer against Germany, South Africa, France, Holland and all branches of the U.S. armed forces. (Allison Batdorff / S&S)

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — You eat salami for breakfast in the Netherlands. And everyone there calls it “football” instead of soccer.

But the game is an international language among those playing it, says Seaman Kim Hemenway, who just returned from the Netherlands to Yokosuka Naval Base after kickin’ it with the some of the world’s best military soccer players.

“It’s hard to understand what people are yelling on the field but you don’t have to speak the language to know when they are swearing or celebrating,” Hemenway said. “And, if you like soccer, there is an immediate connection with people around the world.”

Hemenway, 22, just returned to her job as a postal clerk on the USS Blue Ridge last week after playing soccer against Germany, South Africa, France, Holland and all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces.

The only female on the Blue Ridge team, Hemenway was chosen for the Navy/Marine/Coast Guard team in the Armed Forces Women’s Soccer Championship last month in Mayport, Fla.

“It wasn’t a pretty sight,” Hemenway said of that tournament. The Navy team lost both games against the Army (9-0) and Air Force (4-0). Hemenway, usually a forward, got heavy-duty exercise as a goalie.

“The Army shot on me 29 times and everyone said it was a new record,” Hemenway said. “I got shot on about 70 times in the tournament overall. It was brutal.”

The tide turned in the CISM — the Counseil International du Sports Militaire, or International Military Sports Council Women’s Soccer Championship — tournament..

Hemenway was chosen as the youngest — and one of the only enlisted members — of 18 women on the All-Armed Forces team.

She held the lowest military ranking, but that didn’t really matter on the field, she said.

“We weren’t military at that point; we were soccer players. We all wore the same uniform and went by our first names,” Hemenway said. “It was only at the end when we went in our military uniforms at the awards ceremony that everyone could tell what we were.”

The Americans placed third overall behind Holland and Germany in tournament games played on a small military installation in Zoutkamp, Netherlands. The Americans beat France (4-3), shut out South Africa (12-0) and tied Germany (2-2).

Hemenway was goalkeeper again but all was quiet on her end of the field, she said.

“I didn’t get shot on once. The only time I touched the ball was for goal kicks.”

Besides a great experience, Hemenway said she brought back a new appreciation for “Euro-hair” and “Euro-shoes” and a taste for Nutella hazelnut spread.

And, yes, she is watching the World Cup soccer games this week. Or trying to, as it’s hard on the ship and no games have been broadcast yet on the American Forces Network.

“I want Brazil to win and I’m trying to keep up on the Internet,” Hemenway said. “For me as an American, soccer is just more international than basketball or football.”

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