President Barack Obama commended the US men’s football team on Wednesday for making their country proud in the World Cup tournament in Brazil, during an Oval Office phone call with two of the team’s most celebrated players.
Obama called goalkeeper Tim Howard and team captain Clint Dempsey the day after the US team came tantalisingly close to victory before being knocked out of the competition by Belgium in extra-time.
Praising Howard and Dempsey for their leadership and the team’s performance, Obama said this year was the first time the US team had the entire nation truly focused on the contest.
“You guys did us proud,” Obama said in a video released by the White House. “To see the way you guys captured the hearts and the imaginations of the whole country is unbelievable.”
He joked that Howard, whose 16 saves captivated football fans worldwide, will have to shave his beard before returning to the US in order to evade mobs of fans. He invited the team to visit the White House soon and asked Howard and Dempsey to convey his congratulations to their coach and teammates.
“I know it’s disappointing,” Obama said of the 2-1 loss Tuesday. “But what you guys accomplished is really, really significant.” Obama has been following the World Cup closely. He watched last week’s US-Germany match from Air Force One and chanted “I believe!” while watching the Belgium match with White House aides.
Hagel biggest fan
Accolades for Howard have been pouring in from the highest level of government, including from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, whose Wikipedia entry was temporarily changed as a joke to show Howard as the new Pentagon chief. Rear Admiral John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, said Hagel invited the entire US team to visit the Pentagon.
“He told Howard that with some training, he could someday become the real secretary of defence,” Kirby said.
Others in the US were less enthralled by ‘football fever’, which is a relatively new phenomenon in the US.
Some prominent sports bloggers have criticised the sport as un-American and insist that it will never become as popular as home-grown sports.
(FRANCE 24 with AP)
Date created : 2014-07-03