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Cindy Fisher / S&S Santino Calloway, front, on the 7- to 8-year-olds Python team, and a Japanese child from the Immatowga Fires team race to the soccer ball during a match Saturday at the Friendship Soccer Tournament at the Chibana Recreation Area. About 580 American and Japanese children participated in the tournament.
Cindy Fisher / S&S Santino Calloway, front, on the 7- to 8-year-olds Python team, and a Japanese child from the Immatowga Fires team race to the soccer ball during a match Saturday at the Friendship Soccer Tournament at the Chibana Recreation Area. About 580 American and Japanese children participated in the tournament. (Cindy Fisher / S&S)

KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — It was all about friendship for about 580 American and Japanese children at the Friendship Soccer Tournament at Chibana Recreation Area on Saturday, said organizers.

No one was keeping score — except for maybe a few children.

After one game, a coach told his team, “The point of the game is to have fun and learn how to play it better,” then added he didn’t even know what the score was. Several of his kids were quick to chime in that they lost 7-0.

Other children remarked they didn’t care about winning or losing; they just had a good time.

Caleb Stiles, 8, admitted it was tough playing against the Japanese teams, but “it’s really fun.”

After the 18 American teams and 22 Japanese teams, consisting of 7- to 8-year-olds or 9- to 10-years-olds, finished playing soccer, they ate at a barbecue sponsored by the United Service Organizations and presented each other with medals, said Air Force Master Sgt. Thomas Stiles, who coached one of the teams.

“Then we turn them loose to play together,” he said.

“This was a big collaborative effort,” Stiles said. The Kadena Youth Sports Program and the Okinawa English Teachers Association helped coordinate the event and get teams.

The event was about “trying to start a cultural exchange through sports,” the master sergeant said. It was an opportunity for the Japanese children to practice English and the American children to work on Japanese, he said.

Technical Sgt. Doney Snipe agreed it was a good chance for his 8-year-old daughter and the rest of the American kids to interact with Japanese children their own ages.

Stiles said he hopes it doesn’t end here. “We’re hoping to do this with every sport.”

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