Alexander Fyfe

Soccer Captain

While the Iraqi National Soccer Team was gearing up for its knockout performance at the 2004 Summer Olympics, U.S. Army captain Alexander Fyfe was helping the country's next generation of athletes sharpen their dribbling skills. Fyfe, a civil-affairs officer with the Fort Lewis, Washington–based 1st Battalion, 37th Field Artillery Regiment, was stationed in Mosul, Iraq, last February when he noticed some local kids playing with a makeshift ball made of straw. The 26-year-old West Point grad—a standout midfielder as a teenager in Rocky Point, New York—e-mailed his high school coach, Al Ellis, and asked him to ship over a few balls. Ellis broadcast the request over the Internet, and soon Fyfe had received $25,000 worth of jerseys, balls, and other soccer equipment from the United States and Japan, which he helped distribute to children throughout northern Iraq. Though his is a goodwill mission, Fyfe still has to watch his back: In June, while on a delivery run to schools near the town of Qara Qosh, his convoy was ambushed by anti-American insurgents. The soldiers escaped harm, but the incident rattled Fyfe, who hopes to end his tour of duty by year's end and return home to the Northwest for a winter of hiking and skiing. "This soccer project is one of hundreds of good news stories happening here every day," he insists. "I'll leave Iraq knowing that I played a small part in a very big production." Whatever the outcome in Iraq, it's hard to contest the rightness of kids playing sports outside.

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