Obama supports efforts to bring World Cup to US, meets FIFA head at White House

By Philip Elliott, AP
Monday, July 27, 2009

Obama supports US World Cup effort

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Monday lobbied the head of international soccer on the United States’ bid to host the World Cup and said he hoped to attend the upcoming contest in South Africa.

Obama met with FIFA president Sepp Blatter at the White House to discuss the United States’ prospects to attract the tournament in 2018 or 2022. Blatter again invited Obama to attend the World Cup in South Africa in 2010, and Obama said he’d like to make that trip.

“You know, I hope to,” Obama said to reporters as he walked back toward the West Wing after a separate event. “We’re going to take a look at the schedule.”

Blatter said he heard the same message during their closed-door meeting, which included some soccer moves in the Oval Office. Obama bounced the ball on his foot, “making two, three movements, and then he took it to his head,” Blatter said.

Asked how Obama did, Blatter said the move “merits a compliment.” He then added Obama is not ready for United States’ team that almost defeated Brazil.

Blatter presented Obama with a soccer ball from that Confederations Cup match, which saw the U.S. team lose 3-2 after leading 2-0.

“I told him it was the ball of the first half,” Blatter told reporters outside the White House after his meeting.

Blatter has been dour on his sport’s popularity in the United States but said the country has “a good chance” to play host to the match for the first time since 1994.

The entire soccer movement in the United States could receive a tremendous boost if the 2018 or 2022 World Cup is awarded to the Americans. FIFA will decide in December 2010, with England considered the front-runner for ‘18. Blatter has expressed a preference for bringing the tournament back to Europe after stints in Africa and then South America, where Brazil will host the 2014 World Cup.

The United States is one of 11 countries that has formally declared its desire to host either event, while Netherlands-Belgium and Portugal-Spain have submitted joint bids.

Associated Press writer Charles Babington in Washington and sports writer Barry Wilner in New York contributed to this report.

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