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Misawa Students play Soccer in Sendai

U.S. Air Force Col. Sam Shaneyfelt, 35th Operations Group commander, warms up with Japanese children before a game at Sendai, Japan, April 1, 2012. Fourteen children from Misawa Air Base were invited to play in a joint-youth soccer game against Japanese children from Sendai to commemorate the centennial of the Japanese gift of more than 3,000 cherry trees to the United States in 1912. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Son Lee/Released)

U.S. Air Force Col. Sam Shaneyfelt, 35th Operations Group commander, warms up with Japanese children before a game at Sendai, Japan, April 1, 2012. Fourteen children from Misawa Air Base were invited to play in a joint-youth soccer game against Japanese children from Sendai to commemorate the centennial of the Japanese gift of more than 3,000 cherry trees to the United States in 1912. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Son Lee/Released)

The daughter of U.S. Air Force Capt. Justin Kandle, 35th Medical Surgical Squadron, plays goalie during a warm-up activity before a joint-youth soccer game at Sendai, Japan, April 1, 2012. To celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the Japanese gift of more than 3,000 cherry trees to the United States, the city of Sendai invited 14 children from Misawa Air Base to play in a soccer match before Hope Solo and the rest of the U.S. Major League Soccer women’s team played the Japanese women’s national team later that night. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Son Lee/Released)

The daughter of U.S. Air Force Capt. Justin Kandle, 35th Medical Surgical Squadron, plays goalie during a warm-up activity before a joint-youth soccer game at Sendai, Japan, April 1, 2012. To celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the Japanese gift of more than 3,000 cherry trees to the United States, the city of Sendai invited 14 children from Misawa Air Base to play in a soccer match before Hope Solo and the rest of the U.S. Major League Soccer women’s team played the Japanese women’s national team later that night. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Son Lee/Released)

Children from Misawa Air Base and the city of Sendai line up before a joint-youth soccer game at Sendai, Japan, April 1, 2012. Fourteen children from Misawa Air Base were invited to play in a joint-youth soccer game against Japanese children from Sendai to commemorate the centennial of the Japanese gift of more than 3,000 cherry trees to the United States in 1912. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Son Lee/Released)

Children from Misawa Air Base and the city of Sendai line up before a joint-youth soccer game at Sendai, Japan, April 1, 2012. Fourteen children from Misawa Air Base were invited to play in a joint-youth soccer game against Japanese children from Sendai to commemorate the centennial of the Japanese gift of more than 3,000 cherry trees to the United States in 1912. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Son Lee/Released)

The son of U.S. Air Force Capt. Jennifer Franks, center, 35th Medical Surgical Squadron, goes in to steal the ball during a joint-youth soccer game at Sendai, Japan, April 1, 2012. The City of Sendai extended an invitation for American elementary school students from Misawa Air Base to participate in a Japan-U.S. soccer exchange before a professional match between the U.S. Major League Soccer women’s team and Japanese women’s team later that night. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Son Lee/Released)

The son of U.S. Air Force Capt. Jennifer Franks, center, 35th Medical Surgical Squadron, goes in to steal the ball during a joint-youth soccer game at Sendai, Japan, April 1, 2012. The City of Sendai extended an invitation for American elementary school students from Misawa Air Base to participate in a Japan-U.S. soccer exchange before a professional match between the U.S. Major League Soccer women’s team and Japanese women’s team later that night. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Son Lee/Released)

Children from the city of Sendai and Misawa Air Base race to grab a soccer ball during a joint-youth soccer match at Sendai, Japan, April 1, 2012. The children from Misawa Air Base played against the children of Sendai during the first half of the game, and then during the second half of the game, the children were put into mixed teams to encourage joint interaction. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Son Lee/Released)

Children from the city of Sendai and Misawa Air Base race to grab a soccer ball during a joint-youth soccer match at Sendai, Japan, April 1, 2012. The children from Misawa Air Base played against the children of Sendai during the first half of the game, and then during the second half of the game, the children were put into mixed teams to encourage joint interaction. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Son Lee/Released)

The son of U.S. Air Force Capt. Jennifer Franks, 35th Medical Surgical Squadron, shakes hands with a Japanese child from Sendai on his team during a Japan-U.S. soccer exchange at Sendai, Japan, April 1, 2012. After playing against each other, the children from Misawa Air Base and Sendai city were put into mixed teams where they formed friendships through their love for soccer. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Son Lee/Released)

The son of U.S. Air Force Capt. Jennifer Franks, 35th Medical Surgical Squadron, shakes hands with a Japanese child from Sendai on his team during a Japan-U.S. soccer exchange at Sendai, Japan, April 1, 2012. After playing against each other, the children from Misawa Air Base and Sendai city were put into mixed teams where they formed friendships through their love for soccer. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Son Lee/Released)

Children from the city of Sendai and Misawa Air Base shake hands and congratulate one another during a joint-youth soccer match at Sendai, Japan, April 1, 2012. The city of Sendai extended an invitation to a Japan-U.S. soccer exchange to children from Misawa Air Base to celebrate the centennial of the Japanese gift of cherry blossoms to the U.S. and form new friendships through the established close ties of their predecessors. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Son Lee/Released)

Children from the city of Sendai and Misawa Air Base shake hands and congratulate one another during a joint-youth soccer match at Sendai, Japan, April 1, 2012. The city of Sendai extended an invitation to a Japan-U.S. soccer exchange to children from Misawa Air Base to celebrate the centennial of the Japanese gift of cherry blossoms to the U.S. and form new friendships through the established close ties of their predecessors. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Son Lee/Released)

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- The City of Sendai extended an invitation for American elementary school students from Misawa Air Base to participate in a Japan-U.S. soccer exchange in Sendai City, April 1.

Language barriers were surmounted and friendships born during a joint soccer game between American and Japanese children in Japan.

"The idea is for the children's game to parallel a game between the Japanese and American women's professional teams," Hitoshi Takeda, Sendai City culture and sports director said. "It is important for the two countries to come together and succeed as one team, especially following reconstruction caused by last year's tsunami."

Children from the Sendai City and Misawa Air Base youth soccer teams played two 15-minute halves. During the first half, Japanese and American teams challenged each other. For the second half, the director suggested a change.

Takeda integrated the Japanese and American children teams, allowing children to play alongside their peers.

A language barrier was a challenge which the children overcame quickly, Daniel Hershey, Misawa youth head coach, said.

"The Japanese and American children didn't share a word besides 'offense' and 'defense,' and used their nonverbal communication to play the game," Hershey said. "Even though they couldn't communicate as they normally would, they were able to play and figure out it out as the game went on."

The soccer players said initially the game was confusing and intimidating, but soon the sides developed their own method of communication.

"We'd say 'Hai! Hai!' or 'Go! Go!' while passing the ball to each other," Payton McDaniel, Sollars Elementary school student said. "It's the universal language of soccer."

Following the game, Misawa soccer stars were hosted to a professional game between the Japanese and American women's national soccer teams. The game ended in a tie, with Alex Morgan balancing the score during the later part of the second half of the game.
During the centennial celebration of the Japanese gift of more than 3,000 cherry trees to the United States, Morgan played side-by-side with other American soccer professionals, Hope Solo and Amy LePeilbet.

The dual games promote sports diplomacy which Hillary Clinton, US Secretary of State's vision of smart power, says embraces the full range of diplomatic tools. The Japanese-hosted game brought children and professionals from two nations together to foster a greater understanding through a shared love of sports.