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LAFES FIELD, Azores, Portugal -- Two Airmen from Lajes Field have earned the opportunity to participate in the 2013 International Military Sports Council (CISM) 1st World Football Trophy July 2 to 14.
According to its official website, the International Military Sports Council is one of the largest multidisciplinary organizations in the world. It organizes various sporting events for the armed forces of its 133-member countries. Soldiers, who may previously have met on the battlefield, now meet in friendship on the sports playing field.
"This is the first world military soccer competition ever," said 1st Lt. Richard Nova, 65th Civil Engineer Squadron programs management chief. "This competition is mirrored like the World Cup."
Nova, who has twice played for the All Air Force soccer team, will compete for a spot on the U.S. Armed Forces Soccer team. He will first attend a three-week camp in June for tryouts at Camp Pendleton, Calif. Those who make the cut will then compete in Baku, Azerbaijan.
"This team consists of Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force players," said Tech. Sgt. Gilbert Gutierrez, 65th Medical Operations Squadron physical medicine flight chief. "Lieutenant Nova was selected as one of the wings, or the outside midfield."
Gutierrez himself was also personally selected by the coach to be the team's physical trainer this summer.
"The cool thing is he's (Gutierrez) guaranteed to go," said Nova. "I have to earn my spot; he's already earned his spot."
When the Air Force soccer team visited Hurlburt Field, Fla., in 2010, they requested medical assistance, and the physical medicine professionals volunteered.
"I was their trainer then, and now their coach is asking me to come back," he said. "I will probably be one of the only medical personnel at the camp for the first three weeks, and then there will be another athletic trainer who was picked from the Marine Corps. Both of us will be going to Azerbaijan."
There, Gutierrez will care for 40 players, keeping them healthy so they may stay on the field.
"Sergeant Gutierrez will be taking care of all of us," said Nova. "He's a true professional. I've worked with him, and he was the Air Force physical trainer in 2010 at Hurlburt Field, Fla. He personally took care of me and made sure I was fit to go in the tournament."
Nova said Gutierrez has a really tough job ahead of him in Azerbaijan.
"He's a very important aspect to our team," he said. "He's got 40 guys going through probably one of the most gruesome camps. We arrive at Camp Pendleton June 7, and then we start camp the next day. We will do three practices a day; each practice is roughly two hours. It's a grueling three weeks. Actually, it feels like three months because by the end of it, you're looking at over 50 practices in a three-week period. Our bodies aren't used to that. No one has time in their military careers to prepare for six-hour practices, so he's going to be very busy keeping us healthy."
In discussing the upcoming schedule, Gutierrez revealed to Nova that one of the teams they will be playing in the competition is the LA Galaxy, one of the top soccer teams in America.
"LA Galaxy is one of the top rated soccer teams in the United States right now; former players of this team include David Beckham and Landon Donovan," said Nova.
Gutierrez said he's honored to have been selected.
"It's an honor for me to be able to help people, to help athletes do their best and to get to that World Cup," he said.
Nova said he's both nervous and excited.
"It's so amazing; it's a huge opportunity," he said. "It's a humbling opportunity because you're one of 10 people selected across an entire Air Force, and there are tons of great soccer players out there. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and the closest thing I'll get to an actual World Cup. Hopefully, I come back on the team with a gold medal."
The U.S. Armed Forces Soccer team's first three games will be against Germany, Oman and Ivory Coast.