United States President Barack Obama welcomed the country's recent FIFA Women’s World Cup™ winners to the White House on Tuesday to honour their achievement. Jill Ellis's team overcame Japan 5-2 in a thrilling Canada 2015 Final in July.
All 23 players, coaches and backroom staff filed in to the East Room, greeted by a loud ovation from the invited guests. President Obama, joined by Vice President Joe Biden, U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati and a 13-year-old girl, Ayla, from Massachusetts, shortly followed.
To begin the ceremony, Ayla shared a letter she wrote to President and Mrs. Obama towards the end of Canada 2015 with the crowd, explaining her anger after her brother told her that ‘boys are so much better at soccer than girls’, and that she wanted the White House’s help to prove him wrong. President Obama hailed young Ayla’s courage and used her letter to frame his congratulatory remarks to the recent Women’s World Cup champions.
They’ve done it with class. They’ve done it the right way. They’ve done it with excitement. They’ve done with style. We are very, very proud of them.
“Girls like Ayla [were told] they weren’t somehow supposed to be as good at sports as boys,” President Obama said. “And Ayla got mad, and she should be mad with those attitudes.
“This team taught all America’s children that ‘playing like a girl’ means you're a badass… Playing like a girl means being the best. It means drawing the largest TV audience for a soccer match - men or women’s - in American history.
“It means wearing our nation’s crest on your jersey, taking yourself and your country to the top of the world. That’s what American women do. That's what American girls do. That’s why we celebrate this team. They’ve done it with class. They’ve done it the right way. They’ve done it with excitement. They’ve done with style. We are very, very proud of them.”
Total team effort
President Obama hailed the team effort the Stars and Stripes put on display at Canada 2015. Led by coach Ellis, the Americans won a difficult Group D, beat Colombia in the Round of 16, edged China PR 1-0 in the quarter-finals and took down Germany in the semi-finals before racing out to a 4-0 lead within 16 minutes of the Final against Japan.
“It was a victory that took all 23 players,” President Obama explained. “It took Christie Rampone’s leadership, Alex Morgan’s playmaking and Heather O’Reilly’s game face.
“It took Becky Sauerbrunn’s quiet dominance. And Abby Wambach’s not-so-quiet dominance. Abby said that she wanted her final World Cup to be like a fairytale. And I’m not sure she could have written a better ending.”
At the end of the ceremony, Ellis presented President Obama with a personalised USA jersey, emblasoned with the No44 on the back – Obama is the 44th President of the United States.
“On behalf of our team and our staff, we want to you try out!” Ellis joked upon handing President Obama his new kit. “We figured you’d be free,” Ellis hinted at the end of his presidency next year.
“Thank you so much for your support. It meant the world to us.”