A group of soldiers serving in Afghanistan teamed up with the USSF Passback program, run in partnership with Eurosport (Soccer.com), to give soccer balls to kids in Afghanistan. They just received their first shipment, and hope to hand out more in the months ahead:

Even more children in Afghanistan are playing soccer, thanks to the efforts of a group of local soldiers who are serving there. “[Operation Soccer Smiles] recently received our first shipment of donated soccer balls from the Passback Program, located in Hillsborough, North Carolina,” wrote Lt. Col. James Overbye in an e-mail to the News & Messenger. Overbye, of Gainesville, is assigned as a team leader of a 14-man brigade embedded transition team that deployed to Afghanistan in November. The unit is headquartered at Forward Operating Base Apache, near the city of Qalat in Zabul Province in southern Afghanistan.

This all started when one of the soldiers received some soccer balls from someone in the US and they were a huge hit when the soldiers passed them out to local children. This is very similar to the Little Feet program, which we’ve written about before. This effort also had a very similar story on how it began:

One of the members of Overbye’s team earlier received some soccer balls from someone here in the United States and they were a big hit when Afghan National Army soldiers passed them out to children who live in the remote area. Shortly after that, Texas resident Susie Junek sent the soldiers care packages through the anysoldier.com program. In a note to Overbye, Junek asked if there was anything else she could do to help. Overbye told her about the unit’s desire to obtain more soccer balls. That led Junek to dub the effort Operation Soccer Smiles. She also approached her alma mater, Texas A & M, whose soccer team has donated 50 soccer balls to the effort.

What a very cool program, and neat to know those soccer balls shipped out of a warehouse a couple miles from where I live!

You can find more details about the Operation Soccer Smiles at their website.