WASHINGTON (AP) — Kidz Bop blared on the stereo as groups of sweaty kids beamed with joy at the chance to kick soccer balls with major league pros at the White House on Monday.
Children wearing shirts from their favorite Major League Soccer teams joined first lady Jill Biden and players from FC Cincinnati, DC United, Chicago Fire and other teams for a youth soccer clinic on the South Lawn of the White House on a sweltering afternoon.
They played pick-up football matches until the early evening. White House staff eagerly distributed water to the children and their parents.
The White House presented the event as part of Biden’s ongoing efforts to “highlight how sport unites us, and supports and empowers young people.”
“Sport is the international language, from the thrill of the goal to the joy of victory,” Biden said at the event, standing on a podium next to MLS commissioner Don Garber and 16-year-old Nevaeh Burroughs. a DC Parks and Recreation Representative.
Before introducing the first lady, Burroughs said football taught her the importance of “dedication, hard work and commitment”.
“When we work together to score that point or cheer on our team, sport unites us across backgrounds and borders. There are no strangers in the stands or on the field,” Biden said. MLS stars including Christian Benteke, Lucho Acosta and Kei Kamara took part in the event and kicked balls with the kids while answering their questions.
President Joe Biden came out late in the event to chat with the pros. MLS hosts its All-Star Game on Wednesday at Audi Field in Washington.
The White House’s focus on soccer comes just in time for the Women’s World Cup, which kicks off this week in Australia and New Zealand.
The United States women’s national soccer team plays against Vietnam in Auckland on Friday. Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff will represent the White House from the stands, Jill Biden has said.
Women’s team players traveled to the White House in March 2021 to discuss pay discrimination on ‘Equal Pay Day’ – after the team in 2019 sued the U.S. Soccer Federation for wage discrimination. In 2022, a landmark $24 million settlement was signed, along with a pledge to equalize salaries and bonuses to match the men’s team.