US State Dept takes young Asians to World Cup

The United States State Department has taken an interest in the FIFA World Cup through an international youth program sponsored by its Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the US Soccer Foundation, the US Soccer Federation and Major League Soccer and managed by World Learning's Delphi International. The program endeavors to build international understanding and respect between young people around the world as well as reflecting the 2006 World Cup theme of “a time to make friends.” Thirty young male and female football players aged 13-18, from 13 countries including Afghanistan, Bahrain, China, Indonesia, Lebanon, Malaysia, Pakistan and Uzbekistan, are participating.

The program included visits to Washington DC and New York City - where they met President Bush and Secretary of States Condoleezza Rice as well as honed their football skills by attending the practice of MLS team DC United - before heading to Germany to watch the 22 June World Cup match between the United States and Ghana. The participants, both boys and girls, also scrimmaged with American youths and the US collegiate football champions from the University of Maryland.

In an interview with the Washington File, Under Secretary of State Karen Hughes, who hosted a pizza and ice cream party for the program participants at her home, explained the importance of the World Cup exchange program and expressed her pride in leading the youth delegation to the match in Germany. “Sports is a common language that fosters dialogue across borders,” she said. “These young people are the future leaders of our world and it is a privilege to be a part of introducing them to America and to each other.”