Remarks on Greeting Members of Team America, All-Star Soccer Players

May 4, 1983

The President. Well, it's a great pleasure to greet this team here, this all-star team, the ``Team America.'' And it marks quite a few firsts, and we hope one yet to be, and that is the first appearance in the World Cup series of an American team. And what we're hoping for is that maybe this would lead to the World Cup, for the first time in its history, being held in the United States.

Now, I was a little worried about the Rose Garden being kind of confining here for all of them and worried that they might be attracted by the expanse of the South Lawn, and we'd lose them. That's why we turned the water on out there. [Laughter] But they will be playing, and we'll have an opportunity to see them, because they will be playing in the North American League. And in your first game 2 weeks ago, you defeated Seattle in that league.

But soccer, as you know, is a worldwide sport and has been increasing in popularity here in America just by leaps and bounds in the last few years. So, we're very proud and happy to have this team and to be represented for the first time in the World Cup.

And I can't resist doing a little reminiscing and telling you gentlemen a little story that has to do with American football and soccer. Years ago, in the days of a coach named Knute Rockne, at Notre Dame -- and it was the great and famous football school of the time. And he would have squads of more than 100 men turn out, and then he had to cut the squad. And one day he figured out that maybe an easy way to get right down to cutting the squad was on the first day he divided them up into two groups, one here and one here. And he went out with a soccer ball and put it down and he said, ``Now,'' and he made a little speech and he said, ``football is a game of courage.'' And he said, ``I want that group to try and kick the ball across the goal line and this one, you try to stop them and kick it across that goal line.'' And he said, ``Of course, you know, you may have to do a little shin-kicking at the same time. But as I say, football is a game of courage.'' And all right. And he looked down, and the soccer ball was gone. And he said, ``All right, come on, who took the soccer ball?'' And the littlest guy in the 100 fellows out there said, ``Never mind the ball, Rock, when do we start kicking?'' [Laughter]

Well, I think you'll have to mind the ball at the same time. What we will say, though, is, start kicking. And God bless you, and we're all very proud of you. Thank you.

Mr. Lifton. We have some presentations, Mr. President: the Team America soccer ball, signed by all the members of Team America, as well as the coach and the staff. So, we'd like you to have that. And when we win the World Cup, we would like you to hold on to that.

The President. I will hold on to it. And if I hold on to it, you can't ask me to kick it. [Laughter]

Mr. Lifton. Fair enough.

This is a jacket, Mr. President, that says, ``Commander in Chief, Team America,'' on the front.

The President. Well, thank you very much.

Mr. Lifton. And the pants go with it. [Laughter]

The President. All right.

Mr. Lifton. It wouldn't be a matching set without them. [Laughter]

The President. Well, thank you all very much.

Mr. Lifton. Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 11:45 a.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. Robert Lifton is chief executive officer of Team America.