QUESTION: Well, first of all, Secretary Blinken, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Great to be with you.
QUESTION: It is so fun to have you here. I know you just met with the team. What was the message that you shared with them in terms of being at this World Cup?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, first, for me just as a fan, it was incredibly exciting to meet Team USA. I’ve been watching so many of these players for years – Alex Morgan, Lindsey Horan, Megan Rapinoe, I could go down the list. And you’ve got this amazing combination of extraordinary veterans but also young new talent – Sophia Smith, people like that. So for me it was just being a fan first and foremost.
But I think the one thing we have in common – the one thing we don’t have in common is soccer skills. (Laughter.) I played. I was terrible. These are the most amazing players in the world. The one thing we have in common is this, and this is what I told them: We are going to work each day with the American flag either literally or figuratively behind our backs, and to me that’s the most inspiring thing about my job, and I think it’s the most inspiring thing about the job they have right now this week.
QUESTION: That’s a great point. What are you most looking forward to tomorrow, to watch the United States against the Netherlands?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, I think it’s going to be a great game. There’s a little bit of a rematch here, so we’ll see. I’m sure the Netherlands is coming out all fired up, but the team seemed both relaxed but also with a little bit of nervous energy, which is exactly, I think, what you want. And the talent is just extraordinary. I think what’s happened, though, watching Team USA for so many years, is the rest of the world is catching up. The talent level across so many of these teams is incredible. That makes for a great tournament.
QUESTION: In so many ways, sports plays such an important role in our American culture. So what role does sport play in your diplomacy?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Sports diplomacy is an incredibly powerful thing, because sports, like the arts, takes down barriers. It connects people across languages, across cultures, across borders. So many of our athletes are known around the world, and so it’s great for the American brand, but it’s just a way of connecting. And in my line of work, when you’re really trying to connect people and break through, it’s wonderful to have this team out there showing the best of our country.
QUESTION: Thank you. Enjoy the World Cup.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: I will. Thanks. Good to be with you.