UPDATE: The United States just drew England for its first match in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Our group consists of Algeria and Slovenia as well. Let the chirping begin between the former colonial counterparts. You can see the full draw here.
S. Africa, Mexico, Uraguay, France
England, United States, Algeria, Slovenia
Netherlands, Denmark, Japan, Cameroon
Brazil, N. Korea, Ivory Coast, Portugal
Argentina, Nigeria, S. Korea, Greece
Germany, Australia, Serbia, Ghana
Italy, Paraguay, New Zealand, Slovakia
Spain, Switzerland, Honduras, Chile
More Coverage here…
UPDATE: The Pool has been seeded and the US finds itself joined with the rest of CONCACAF, and teams from ASIA and OCEANIA.
You can see the full seeding here.
World Cup 2010: President Obama’s Next Global Initiative
With the US Men’s Soccer Team clinching a birth in next summer’s World Cup, the attention of American soccer enthusiasts now turns to South Africa and the quadrennial competition; and in similarly enthusiastic fashion, the eye of our nation’s President will undoubtedly be fixated on the global competition as well. Friday, December 4th, the “draw” will be announced. For those of you unfamiliar with the soccer world and/or soccer parlance, this is where each of the 32 teams will find out who they will play in the “group round” of the tournament. While this may seem like a relatively mundane and meaningless event for many of you, let’s put it this way. It’s the World Cup equivalent to Selection Sunday for the NCAA tournament only it will be watched by more people than the Super Bowl last year. It is the official beginning to the final round of the World Cup which has been in the qualifying stages since just after the completion of the 2006 Cup. Lets just agree it’s a big deal.
So you may be asking yourself, why would President Obama have an eye on a soccer competition in South Africa when most Americans could care less about a soccer tournament even if their children are playing in it over the weekend? Well, we will get to his motivations in a moment, but let’s begin by looking at what he has already said about the event and what it could mean to an administration that continues to appear hell-bent on gaining foreign favor even at the detriment of similar sentiment stateside.
Obama has already accepted an invitation to attend the festivities that was sent personally to the White House by the president of soccer’s world governing body FIFA (Federation of International Football Associations), who said “The
World Cup in South Africa… will go well…and the man who said, ‘Yes we can,’ will be there.” Clearly, World Cup organizers are extremely enthusiastic about the possibility of Obama’s participation. This could be due to the President’s close ties to the African continent but it may also be a result, at least in part, of FIFA’s continued and concerted efforts to bring the world’s game to the states.
President Clinton was in attendance when the World Cup ventured to the United States in 1994, but other than that “expected” appearance, American Presidents have been reluctant to embrace the world’s game even as the sport has seeped into the nation’s consciousness through youth participation and the increased popularity of the growing contingency that is the “Soccer Mom.”
As for the venue of the 2010 gathering; it undoubtedly increases the attractiveness of the opportunity for President Obama to attend. South Africa, was for generations the embodiment of racial oppression, but with the fall of Apartheid in 1991, the nation became a symbol of hope and opportunity. Its greatest leader, Nelson Mandela, has even likened Obama to himself on numerous occasions; and on our nation’s 44th President’s Inauguration Day Mandela sent a private letter to him which read, “Your election to this high office has inspired people as few other events in recent times.” In a 90th birthday message, Obama returned the favor saying Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom was the inspiration behind his decision to become politically active.
“We are in some ways reminded today of the excitement and enthusiasm in our own country at the time of our transition to democracy,” Mandela said in the letter. “People, not only in our country but around the world, were inspired to believe that through common human effort injustice can be overcome and that together a better life for all can be achieved.” Mandela told Obama he represents a “new voice of hope” in a world still beset by inequality and division. “Your election to this high office has inspired people as few other events in recent times have done. Amidst all of the human progress made over the last century the world in which we live remains one of great divisions, conflict, inequality, poverty and injustice,” said Mandela. “You, Mister President, have brought a new voice of hope that these problems can be addressed and that we can in fact change the world and make of it a better place.” Mandela also reminded Obama of his Kenyan origins, although even today in South Africa the new US president would commonly be regarded as “coloured” or mixed race, and not black. “There is a special excitement on our continent today, Mister President, in the knowledge that you have such strong personal ties with Africa. We share in that excitement and pride,” he said.
The return to Africa will be a second homecoming of sorts for the son of a native Kenyan – turned American President (3rd if you count his trip there as a US Senator in 2006). He will be cheered as he was in Ghana on his last visit to the continent- as a vision of hope and an iconic symbol of “change.” The parallels and the symbolism will be on display for even the most novice of political and sports enthusiasts. It will be as captivating as Ali’s “Rumble in the Jungle” and as symbolic as the day “President Mandela” donned a Springboks Rugby Jersey and exclaimed “One Team One Country.” When South Africa was struggling to find the fortitude to survive as a nation united, President Nelson Mandela had the vision to see that sports could serve as a uniting force. He called upon the spirit of sport and its uniting influence, and proudly wore a Jersey of a team that for generations represented segregation and apartheid. In doing so, he told his nation that even after all he had been through and all the injustices that were done unto him, he was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice and put the past in the past for the interest of moving his nation forward to a new and promising post-racial future.
The market appeal of the World Cup is unmeasurable and the symbolism of his return to Africa is undeniable, but President Obama has truly embraced soccer even if his motivations for doing so are to this point indiscernible. He is a self-described “soccer dad” on weekends as Sasha and Malia play America’s most popular youth sport, and has adoringly said the Cup is about “inviting the world to gather in celebration of our common hopes and dreams.” He has joined forces with the World Cup USA 2018 and 2022 committees (GO USA BID) and has pledged to actively push for the world’s greatest tournament to return to the States.
“That is why this bid is about much more than a game,” he added. “It is about the United States of America inviting the world to gather all across our great country in celebration of our common hopes and dreams.”
As the summer of 2010 draws near, this president will prepare himself to take center stage at the world’s biggest gathering of sports enthusiasts. President Obama will embrace the “world’s game’” at the pinnacle of its spectacle, and will shine brightly as the biggest star at the world’s biggest game in its most unusual of settings. As the Cup ventures to Africa for the first time in the competition’s history, the first African-American President will take full advantage of the opportunity to share his message of a “changed America” with an audience of 700,000,000+ who will tune in for the Final and the more than 5 billion viewers who will watch the full slate of games. For a President committed to “restoring” America’s image in the global community, the World Cup will be his greatest moment. World-wide “apology tours” and UN speeches reach only a limited audience, but the pulpit that is the World Cup will be limitless.
So yes, he will go. He will go and the world will embrace him. He will take with him his message of hope, of change, and of a nation recast in the image of a new and refined face on the world’s stage. He will arrive in Johannesburg not as a conquering hero but as a returning son, and he will attempt to undue the atrocities envisioned in his own mind by bowing at the alter of the world’s greatest game. The only question is whether once the applause stop and the cheers go silent, will anyone truly listen to the Chosen One and his message? Africa embraced Ali because he was a smooth talker and promised big results, upon which he delivered. South Africa rallied around Nelson Mandela because he personified much needed change and his very freedom generated hope, which has helped sustain the country’s march to actualized equality. Will President Obama finally find his moment of redemption where he will for the first time connect with citizens of the world and generate tangible results, or will this simply be another love, apology, and appeasement tour that will do little more than generate hype, big crowds, and adoring audiences but only succeed in diminishing further the nation’s position in the global community? Perhaps a more fitting question to be posed regarding our prognosticating Chief Executive would be – as he fills out his tournament bracket as he did with the NCAA Basketball tournament, will he bet on the United States when he picks a winner or will he think such a choice will represent exceptionalism and lead to yet another apology tour if we should win?