Former President Clinton on U.S. soccer: Count me in for the next round!
By Liz Clarke
As honorary chairman of the committee that's working to bring the World Cup back to the United States in 2018 or 2022, former President Bill Clinton had planned for some time to attend Wednesday's final first-round match between the U.S. squad and Algeria in Pretoria.
But after nearly losing his voice cheering the Americans throughout the nail-biter, in which Landon Donovan's goal in the 91st minute sealed the squad's advance to the Round of 16, Clinton rearranged his travel schedule late Wednesday night so he'll be able to attend Saturday's match against Ghana in Rustenburg, as well
Clinton has become something of a star-struck fan after watching Wednesday's overtime thriller from a suite with FIFA President Sepp Blatter . He went to the U.S. team locker room afterward to tell the players how proud they had made their county and ended up staying more than an hour, he revealed Thursday, after they asked him to hang out and have a beer.
Clinton's visit to the 2010 World Cup dovetails with the work of the Clinton Foundation, which is involved in initiatives to treat HIV/AIDS and malaria in southern Africa and create sustainable economic development on the continent.
Thursday morning Clinton attended a reception for FIFA members, where he made a case for returning the World Cup to the United States. Afterward he met with a small group of American journalists and spoke at length about the sport, his view of its significance in an increasingly interdependent world and how he feels the World Cup and the United States could each benefit from the tournament's return to the country.
Given the United States' breadth, diversity and existing infrastructure, Clinton argued, the nation offers an ideal setting for the world's biggest sporting event.
"One of the great things about having this in America is, we already have a network of stadiums we can host it in," Clinton said. "And almost no matter where we site the matches, virtually any team that comes can have its own hometown cheering squad."
Moreover, Clinton characterized soccer as a potential tool of diplomacy and understanding--a constructive, entertaining and "safe" means of working out some of the conflicts that invariably arise among nations and disparate cultures.
"I think the big issue everywhere in the world today is: There are some forces bringing us together and some forces tearing us apart," said Clinton, 63. "And you want the ones that are bringing us together to triumph over the ones that are tearing us apart."
Clinton said that his first exposure to soccer came when he moved to England as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford in 1968. He was president in 1994 when the United States hosted the World Cup for the first time and set attendance records that will likely never be broken (averaging 68,991 fans per game).
New York, Los Angles and Washington are among as many as 18 U.S. cities that would host World Cup matches under the committee's bid proposal.
According to insiders, FIFA officials are leaning toward awarding the 2018 World Cup to a European country, given that by that point it will have been 12 years since the tournament was held on the continent. Germany hosted the 2006 World Cup; Brazil has been chosen as host in 2014. That means the United States' best bet is 2022, although the current bid is a pitch to host either year.
FIFA officials are expected to announce hosts of both the 2018 and 2022 World Cups on Dec. 2.
June 24, 2010; 7:57 AM ET
Categories: 2010 World Cup , Africa , FIFA , South Africa , U.S. men's national team | Tags: 2010 World Cup, 2018/2022 U.S. World Cup bid, Bill Clinton, U.S. national team
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