White House lawn turns to playground for kids’ soccer clinic

Jul 17, 2023, 5:03 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — Kidz Bop rang out on the stereo as groups of sweaty children beamed with joy at the chance to kick around soccer balls with major league professionals at the White House Monday.

Children donning jerseys of 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 White House South Lawn on a sweltering afternoon.

They played pickup games of soccer until the early evening. White House staff eagerly passed out water to the kids and their parents.

The White House billed the event as part of Biden’s continued effort to “highlight how sports unites us, and supports and empowers young people.”

“Sport is the international language, from the thrill of the goal to the joy of the win,” Biden said during the event, standing at a podium next to MLS Commissioner Don Garber and 16-year-old Nevaeh Burroughs, a D.C. Parks and Recreation representative.

Before introducing the first lady, Burroughs said soccer taught her the importance of “dedication, hard work and commitment.”

“When we work as one to score that point, or cheer on our team, sports unite us across backgrounds and borders. There are no strangers in the stands or on the field,” Biden said. MLS all-stars, including Christian Benteke, Lucho Acosta and Kei Kamara joined the event and kicked around balls with kids as they answered their questions.

President Joe Biden came out late in the event to chat with the pros. MLS is holding its All-Star Game Wednesday at Washington’s Audi Field.

The White House focus on soccer comes just in time for the Women’s World Cup, which begins this week in Australia and New Zealand.

The U.S. women’s national soccer team plays Friday against Vietnam in Auckland. Second gentleman Douglas Emhoff will represent the White House from the stands, Jill Biden said.

Women’s team players visited 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 over wage discrimination. In 2022 a historic $24 million settlement was signed, as well as a commitment to equalize pay and bonuses to match the men’s team.

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White House lawn turns to playground for kids’ soccer clinic