The well-manicured South Lawn lawn of the White House was turned into a chalk-lined soccer field Monday as coaches and stars of the popular sport attended as a hundred sweaty kids beamed at the chance to kick shiny balls alongside professionals from the national major leagues.
Football -or soccer as it is called in the United States- was present in all its splendor at the presidential mansion, where the actions began with the traditional sound of a whistle blown by none other than the first lady of the nation, Jill Biden, who was wearing a black T-shirt with the inscription "FLOTUS 46" on the back.
At that precise moment, a dozen children, in unison, kicked several soccer balls into a large net set up on the spot. Only one ball missed and bounced towards the Rose Garden. The remaining shots became goals, chanted by the children and guests.
It was an afternoon that everyone described as wonderful and in which President Joe Biden was present, who left his office and for 17 minutes witnessed the skilful demonstrations of the child soccer players. Recognizing him, the boys ran to greet him and take selfies while chanting his name.
The reason for this unique event was the inauguration of a youth soccer clinic organized by the first lady, "as part of her ongoing efforts to highlight how sport unites us, and supports and empowers children and youth," according to the invitation from the White House.
The children, all preteens, wore jerseys of their favorite Major League Soccer (MLS) teams in the United States. Players from FC Cincinnati, DC United, Chicago Fire and other teams attended on a sweltering afternoon.
They participated in informal soccer games until after 7 pm. White House staff enthusiastically handed out water, lemonade and other beverages to children and their parents.
In the opening speech of the youth clinic, Jill Biden stressed that "sport is the international language, from the emotion of the goal to the joy of victory."
“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," said the first lady.
She stood at a podium with MLS Commissioner Don Garber and Nevaeh Burroughs, 16, a representative of the DC Department of Parks and Recreation.
Before introducing the first lady, Burroughs said soccer taught her the importance of "dedication, hard work and commitment."
MLS stars including Christian Benteke, Lucho Acosta and Kei Kamara joined the event and kicked around balls with the children while answering their questions.
The first lady congratulated DC Parks "for working so hard every day to give kids access to opportunities like this," and also DC United "for bringing so many wonderful instructors and coaches here."