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Thrilling Super Bowl worth the early rise for servicemembers in Afghanistan

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

By PHILLIP WALTER WELLMAN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 5, 2018

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.com
Twitter: @pwwellman

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

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