Obama, Kerry show soccer skills — but what


(Jason Reed/AP)

Both President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry bounced soccer balls around Tuesday — Obama at a White House meeting with champion teams the Los Angeles Kings and the LA Galaxy, Kerry while goofing around with a women’s soccer team in Kabul.

Obama is known for his prowess on the basketball court, while Kerry has a legitimate soccer background, having played for the Yale team (he’s also a hockey guy). And while both men are clearly athletes, soccer (or as much of the rest of the world calls it, “football”) isn’t their primary game — that would be politics.

Still, both managed not to embarrass themselves while bouncing soccer balls off their noggins.

But that was just our layman’s opinion, and we wanted a professional to weigh in. So we enlisted the help of Chris Pontius, one of the best-loved players on our hometown team, D.C. United, to analyze the leaders’ soccer skills.

Pontius, with a diplomatic demeanor that even a secretary of state might envy, said after watching the video evidence that Kerry’s form in executing a “heading” of the ball “could be a little better.”

“He didn’t have much control,” he noted, though he allowed that it might be difficult to pull off smooth moves while wearing a constricting suit, as Kerry was. “We should get him in a soccer jersey,” he says. “And then we’ll really see.”

As for Obama, he noted that the president kept his eyes on the ball, which is apparently a good thing when smacking a header. “It sounds strange, but when you keep your eyes on the ball, it helps you put it in whatever direction you want it to go,” he says.

He said that some people believe that a player might lose brain cells every time they head a ball, but that the American people shouldn’t worry about their leaders losing brainpower. The balls were coming at these “heads of state” at a pretty slow speed, he noted. “I don’t think they’ll be making any decisions they wouldn’t have anyway,” he joked.

Most of all, Pontius was just glad to see two American political bigwigs giving soccer a boost — though he did say he wished it was his team getting that White House welcome. “Soccer is obviously such a global sport. It can touch a lot of lives, and it’s great to be part of that.”

Emily Heil is the co-author of the Reliable Source and previously helped pen the In the Loop column with Al Kamen.

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