Since its introduction to the United States in the 19th century, soccer has been a popular pastime for people of all ages, backgrounds and occupations—even president of the United States! With Presidents Day right around the corner, we thought we would look at the sport as it relates to the history of America’s leaders over the last few centuries.
George H. W. Bush
Long before serving as the country’s 41st president, George H. W. Bush was a scholar and an athlete. He served as captain of both the basketball and soccer teams at Massachusetts’ Phillips Academy, then went on to play soccer and baseball at Yale University. While he eventually left the soccer team in order to pursue baseball more rigorously, there’s no denying the budding politician’s enjoyment of the sport all those years ago.
Few presidents have contributed to the soccer community quite like former president Bill Clinton. In honor of his social and philanthropic efforts through the William J. Clinton Foundation and Clinton Global Initiative, Clinton was appointed honorary chairman of the USA Bid Committee, which sought to bring the World Cup to the United States for either the 2018 or 2022 event.
While the bids ultimately went to Russia for 2018 and Qatar for 2022, Clinton’s support of the game and the values it stands for did not go unnoticed. Upon being appointed honorary chairman, Clinton spoke about his global travels and witnessing of soccer being used as “an agent for positive social change.”
In 2014, President Obama made headlines when he kicked the ball around with a new type of player—a Japanese robot! A year before, he even juggled a “soccket” ball at Tanzania’s Ubungo Plaza Symbion Power Plant. The aptly named soccket, a play on the words “soccer” and “socket,” uses energy generated during gameplay to small batteries and LEDs.
In addition to these brief shows of gameplay, President Obama has shown a great amount of support for the game itself—and the passionate people who play it. In 2015, he vocalized his support and admiration for the US women’s national team during and following their successful performance at the Women’s World Cup.
President Obama even invited 13-year-old Ayla to the White House to introduce him and the women’s team following their victory. Ayla caught the president’s attention with a letter expressing concern that girls weren’t fairly represented in sports.
We don’t know if President Obama enjoys soccer in his spare time, but his show of diplomacy and support for the game is worth watching nonetheless!
As you head out to the field this February, keep these famous players and supporters of soccer in mind. As we’ve observed above, soccer may not be as popular in the United States as it is in other parts of the world—but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t played a big part in the lives of our presidents!