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Vol. LX, No. 16
August 08, 2008

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NIH’ers Use Lunch Hour for Soccer

At about 11: 45 a.m. each workday, Dr. Yun Ge hops on his bicycle to fulfill a daily routine, playing soccer during his lunch hour on a field adjacent to parking lot 41 on the southwest side of campus.

A postdoctoral fellow at the National Cancer Institute, Ge came to the United States from China several years ago. He has since discovered the lunchtime soccer game, which he has been playing for about 2 years now.

At about mid-day, Monday through Friday, a group of 10-20 men assemble from different corners of campus and split into two teams to engage in 30 minutes of competitive soccer. This scenario has repeated itself for about 8 years, as the pioneer members told Ge.

Ge discovered that lunchtime soccer began with about four players just kicking the ball around. Over the years, the game has attracted more participants, most of them from soccer-playing nations like China, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Russia, El Salvador, South Korea and Mexico. Players say at least seven languages can be heard on the pitch on any given afternoon.

Playing soccer 5 days a week is a lot of sacrifice, Ge admits, but he’s quick to say that invaluable health benefits accrue from his daily workouts. He adds that playing lunchtime soccer is the best time to enjoy the game and overcome the temptations of the dining table.

At 35, Ge’s commitment to lunch-hour soccer is evident in his physique—he looks fit enough to pass for someone playing Major League Soccer. Ge said that although he never played pro soccer, he did make the team during his school days, including his graduate program.

Ge also described the NIH games as a good way to meet new people and make new friends. According to him, the forum brings together people from different backgrounds whose overriding interest is to maintain good health.

Ge says the men play year-round, except in extreme conditions like heavy snow or rain. “We have found ourselves playing under light rain and snow showers. We play throughout winter and summer, even when it’s over 100 degrees.”

David Leung (above, third from l) calls out bingo letters and numbers at the Camp Fantastic BBQ on June 17.
Staff from the Hard Times Café serve food to a crowd that gathered on a beautiful spring day. There was plenty of good cheer evident in the picnickers, who have supported Camp Fantastic for decades.

The action is nonstop during the noon-hour pick-up soccer matches near parking lot 41.

At left, NCI’s Dr. Yun Ge gets ready to play. At right, players swarm the ball.

You can use your feet or your head in impromptu soccer games, but only goalies can use their hands.

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