Carli Lloyd turns diplomat and takes a US message to kids in Greece

One of America’s greatest soccer players is spending the week in Greece working with kids and reminding everyone that the most important moments in sports don’t always end with a group of Champagne-soaked winners holding up a trophy.

Retired Olympian and World Cup star Carli Lloyd is joining onetime U.S. men’s great Cobi Jones on the pitch and in communities in Greece as part of a program tailored by the U.S. Embassy in Athens, “Changing the Game: Sports for Inclusion.” One of its missions is to remind kids, and maybe their parents, too, about the core reason we play sports — to learn to lead, include others and be a good teammate.

“What makes it special is that when these kids have a ball at their feet, all the rest of the worries and issues kind of go away,” Lloyd said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I hope that us kind of going around the world and speaking about my journey and what it took, the ups and downs, hopefully that can help, and help others.”

There is some geopolitical messaging involved in this trip, as well.

The Lloyd and Jones journey is part of an effort begun in 2006 by the U.S. State Department, which sends elite American athletes and coaches overseas to participate in its Sports Envoy program. Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Lee Satterfield told the AP the U.S. “is elevating sport to the diplomatic platform to engage people all over the world” and support America’s broader foreign policy goals.

“We’re able to look at sports as a way to connect to key audiences and reach people locally in communities who we might not otherwise be in contact with through regular, traditional diplomacy,” Satterfield said.

The U.S. views Greece as an important partner in an important place — closer than most European allies to Russia, North Korea and some other parts of Asia where democracy is either nonexistent or imperiled. Refugees from Ukraine, Northern Africa and other parts of Europe come to Greece; some of Lloyd’s visits this week will be with children from the northern part of Africa.

It could take an entire plane flight from the U.S. to Athens to get through the 41-year-old Lloyd’s resume. In short, she is a two-time FIFA player of the year who has played in more games in the World Cup and Olympics (47) than any other American on the U.S. women’s national team.

She also has been overlooked — both when she was a kid without a soccer net in her backyard and had to prove she could play with the best, and then later as a seasoned veteran when, for instance, at age 27 she found herself in her garage “crying my eyes out, feeling like I was a failure,” as she wrote on her website.

Turns out, she was just getting started. About five years after that, she scored three goals in the first 17 minutes to lead the U.S. to a win over Japan in the final of the 2015 World Cup. She played in two more Olympics and one more World Cup after that. Since hanging up the cleats, she has worked as an analyst on Fox’s soccer coverage.

This week, it’s a different role.

Lloyd will be talking to children — some from Greece, others refugees, still others who have physical and intellectual disabilities — on a number of topics, including gender equity, mental health, nutrition and how we all can learn from wins and from losses, both on and off the field. Embedded in all the conversations will be Lloyd’s own experience with overcoming obstacles.

“It makes you reflect on where you live and where you come from and the opportunities you’ve had,” Lloyd said of her travels across the globe over a career that spanned the better part of 25 years. “It puts things into perspective that there’s always going to be room for improvement everywhere. There’s no perfect country or perfect place or perfect person. And so you’re always going to strive to become a bit better.”


AP soccer:

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top