The World Cup arrived in America on Monday. Not the tournament — Brazil’s got that this summer — but the trophy.
On the first of a four-city U.S. tour before heading to Brazil ahead of soccer’s grand festival, the 14 1/2-inch, 11-pound, gold-covered prize arrived at Washington Dulles Airport from Edmonton aboard a corporate-sponsored jet. Ballou High School’s marching band, fire engine water streams and a red carpet provided the welcome at a charter service hanger.
After a brief ceremony, the trophy was escorted into the city for an official government welcome at the State Department from Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry — an event attended by invited guests, school-age players, Brazilian ambassador Mauro Vieira and U.S. World Cup veterans Cobi Jones , Julie Foudy, Tony Sanneh and Briana Scurry. They joined United players Joe Willis, Conor Shanosky, Kyle Porter and Nana Attakora for a youth clinic in the Department of State’s courtyard.
“This trophy represents the shared hopes and dreams of billions of people around the world,” Kerry said. “I can’t think of anything that unifies people as much, brings out the best, and shows our commonality, the common spirit of sportsmanship, the common spirit of competition, the common spirit of great athleticism.”
Next stop: an evening function with the Brazilian ambassador.
It’s then off to Miami, Atlanta and Los Angeles before reaching Brazil, the last stop on a 90-nation, 221-day, 92,000-mile global tour. The World Cup will begin June 12 in Sao Paulo and conclude July 13 with the champion’s captain raising the trophy at Maracana Stadium.
Soccer is the people’s game, crossing cultural, economic and religious barriers, but on the trophy’s U.S. tour, it’s mostly off limits to the people. None of the Washington events were open to the general public. Los Angeles will host a two-day fan experience at the L.A. Live commercial district. In Brazil, the tour will pass through all 27 states leading to the opener between the host nation and Croatia.
Kerry referenced “joga bonito” and Landon Donovan‘s dramatic goal against Algeria in 2010.
Said Biden: “I have to start with an admission: I didn’t play soccer. I played that other football. But my children and my grandchildren have changed all of that. … At Christmas time, I asked them where do you want to go this year? They want to go to the World Cup. … It was an honor to be at the last World Cup, watching Spain win. You have to attend a World Cup, if you ever wonder what it means to people. It’s the most unusual sporting event I’ve ever attended, and I’ve attended thousands. … It’s a feel, and you can feel it even before you get to the stadium, you can feel it even before you land. It’s in the air, it’s a palpable sense of energy that I’ve never quite experienced before. It’s the most consequential sporting event in the world. It’s amazing how deeply, deeply, deeply passionate every country is about the World Cup. We have our Super Bowl, we have our World Series, we have the NBA Finals, we have March Madness, but my Lord, it is nothing quite like the World Cup.”
Later in the day, the White House announced Biden would attend the World Cup this summer.
Video of Kerry and Biden speeches: