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Army Sgt. Oscar Ortiz, standing, and other football fans at NATO's headquarters in Kabul celebrate after the Philadelphia Eagles score a touchdown during the 2018 Super Bowl  on Monday, Feb. 5, 2018.

Army Sgt. Oscar Ortiz, standing, and other football fans at NATO's headquarters in Kabul celebrate after the Philadelphia Eagles score a touchdown during the 2018 Super Bowl on Monday, Feb. 5, 2018. (Phillip Walter Wellman/Stars and Stripes)

Army Sgt. Oscar Ortiz, standing, and other football fans at NATO's headquarters in Kabul celebrate after the Philadelphia Eagles score a touchdown during the 2018 Super Bowl  on Monday, Feb. 5, 2018.

Army Sgt. Oscar Ortiz, standing, and other football fans at NATO's headquarters in Kabul celebrate after the Philadelphia Eagles score a touchdown during the 2018 Super Bowl on Monday, Feb. 5, 2018. (Phillip Walter Wellman/Stars and Stripes)

Servicemembers and contractors working at NATO's Resolute Support headquarters in Kabul on Monday, Feb. 5, 2018, watch a recorded message by President Donald Trump before the Super Bowl, in which he thanks troops for their service.

Servicemembers and contractors working at NATO's Resolute Support headquarters in Kabul on Monday, Feb. 5, 2018, watch a recorded message by President Donald Trump before the Super Bowl, in which he thanks troops for their service. (Phillip Walter Wellman/Stars and Stripes)

Servicemembers and contractors watch the Super Bowl at NATO's Resolute Support headquarters in Kabul on Monday, Feb. 5, 2018.

Servicemembers and contractors watch the Super Bowl at NATO's Resolute Support headquarters in Kabul on Monday, Feb. 5, 2018. (Phillip Walter Wellman/Stars and Stripes)

New England Patriots fans in Kabul on Monday, Feb. 5, 2018, look dejected in the final moments of the Super Bowl. The Patriots lost to the Philadelphia Eagles 41-33.

New England Patriots fans in Kabul on Monday, Feb. 5, 2018, look dejected in the final moments of the Super Bowl. The Patriots lost to the Philadelphia Eagles 41-33. (Phillip Walter Wellman/Stars and Stripes)

Servicemembers and contractors watch the final moments of the Super Bowl at NATO's Resolute Support headquarters in Kabul on Monday, Feb. 5, 2018.

Servicemembers and contractors watch the final moments of the Super Bowl at NATO's Resolute Support headquarters in Kabul on Monday, Feb. 5, 2018. (Phillip Walter Wellman/Stars and Stripes)

Air Force 1st Lt. Tim Judge, left, Air Force 1st Lt. Nicolle Roose and Air Force 1st Lt. Mike Byon watch the Super Bowl at NATO's Resolute Support headquarters on Monday, Feb. 5, 2018.

Air Force 1st Lt. Tim Judge, left, Air Force 1st Lt. Nicolle Roose and Air Force 1st Lt. Mike Byon watch the Super Bowl at NATO's Resolute Support headquarters on Monday, Feb. 5, 2018. (Phillip Walter Wellman/Stars and Stripes)

KABUL, Afghanistan — About two dozen football fans gathered at NATO’s Resolute Support headquarters in the early hours of Monday morning to watch the New England Patriots take on the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2018 Super Bowl.

The viewing event at the base’s dining hall began at 3:30 a.m., 30 minutes before kickoff.

Servicemembers watched a recorded message by President Donald Trump broadcast before the game, in which he said he hoped the entertainment offered them “much deserved relaxation.”

“I was struggling to get up, but it was worth it. These guys are my friends,” said Air Force 1st Lt. Nicolle Roose, pointing to two airmen next to her.

One of them, lifelong Patriots fan 1st Lt. Tim Judge, wore the team’s dark blue jersey over his uniform.

“I wasn’t going to miss the Super Bowl, even if it is at 3:30 in the morning,” Judge said, adding that while the event was nice, it was “not even close” to being like home. “For one, there’s no alcohol in these things,” he said, pointing to a can of alcohol-free Amstel beer.

U.S. troops are banned from drinking in Afghanistan. Another tradition missing in Afghanistan was Super Bowl commercials. American Forces Network, which broadcast the game, was prohibited from airing them.

Instead, breaks were filled with public service announcements and recorded messages of thanks from football players.

Despite the early hour, food staples like chicken wings, nachos and deep-fried mozzarella were on offer. A large Super Bowl cake was also made.

“There’s a good atmosphere in here,” said California native Army Sgt. Oscar Ortiz. “I’ve been an Eagles fan since I was in the sixth grade and it’s good to be able to watch them.”

The number of spectators fluctuated throughout the morning, with a spike at 6 a.m., when breakfast began. At around 7:30 a.m., when the Eagles defeated the Patriots 41-33, cheers filled the dining hall.

Josh Goemey, a retired Army colonel, current civilian employee and Patriots fan, said that despite his team’s loss, he was glad he got up early to watch the game.

“I had two ‘near beers,’ so I can kind of mentally put myself in the right state,” he joked. “I’m not one of these guys were everything is dependent on who wins the game. It’s all good. If you’re around friends, you’re having a good time.”

wellman.phillip@stripes.comTwitter: @pwwellman

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Phillip is a reporter and photographer for Stars and Stripes, based in Kaiserslautern, Germany. From 2016 to 2021, he covered the war in Afghanistan from Stripes’ Kabul bureau. He is a graduate of the London School of Economics.
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