2010-06-25 / General Stories

Texas Athletes Give Inspiring Performance at World Cup

By U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison

Every four years, nations across the world become captivated by one the most anticipated global athletic competitions. The World Cup soccer tournament showcases the skills and talents of some of the world’s greatest athletes. This year, the tournament is being held in Johannesburg, South Africa, and the U.S. Men’s Team is already making America proud.

Shortly after a vibrant opening ceremony in Johannesburg’s Soccer City Stadium, the U.S. team, ranked 14 in the world, brought their fiercest competition to a match against 8th ranked England. As talented as our team is, the world expected the British team to handily defeat the American soccer players. Spectators watched breathlessly as the U.S. men played with grit and heart, ultimately tying with England for a final score of 1-1. While all of America celebrated our team’s accomplishment, the pride and exhilaration ran highest in Texas. The game-tying goal was kicked past England’s keeper by our own Clint Dempsey of Nacogdoches. The team logged another tie in suspenseful match with Slovenia, allowing the United States to advance in the tournament.

This isn’t the first time Clint has made the United States - and his home state - proud at the World Cup. In the 2006 games, he was the only U.S. player to score a goal. Clearly, he has become accustomed to playing soccer in international stadiums before a worldwide audience of fans. But Clint speaks fondly of how he developed his skills - and his love for soccer - playing in the considerable heat of summer in East Texas. He and his friends would create makeshift fields in their Nacogdoches neighborhood and play the sport with as much spirit as Clint exhibits today.

Clint isn’t the only Texan represented on the 2010 World Cup roster of the U.S. national team. Stuart Holden is a midfielder from Houston who has been playing soccer since he learned to walk. All that practice has clearly paid off, as Stuart now plays among the most skilled athletes in the world, including on the U.S. Team in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. Another Texas teammate is Jose Francisco Torres of Longview, who also plays midfield. Jose has stated that his dream has always been to play for the U.S. national team.

As a mother and a lawmaker, I appreciate the example these young men set for children in Texas who are playing sports and practicing hard to improve their skills. Over 3 million children under 18 play recreational and competitive soccer in the United States, and there are hundreds of soccer clubs in Texas. Each of these players has the opportunity to adopt healthy living habits, learn the importance of teamwork and sportsmanship, and develop the lifelong skills of goal-setting and personal discipline.

Soccer does not have to be a child’s passion for him or her to find inspiration in these Texas athletes’ accomplishments. The most important example being set by Clint, Stuart, Jose, and their teammates is that children should set grand goals and work very hard to achieve them. Clint has said of his early aspirations, “It was always my dream to play in a World Cup and score a goal. As a little kid, I never knew it was possible, it was something I dreamed about...and to actually realize a dream is the best thing on earth.” Clint has reached that goal - twice!

More broadly, the invigorating competition at the World Cup can instill in people across the world a sense of pride and patriotism in their nation’s accomplishments. Together, we can find common appreciation for the spirit and sportsmanship our teams embody. We recently saw one nation’s athletes bravely display their optimism in the face of harsh adversity. In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake that killed 250,000 and left millions more homeless, the Haitian National Soccer Team found comfort and rest in an unexpected place - New Braunfels, Texas. Through a series of exhibition matches in San Antonio and Dallas they showed the world that Haiti would endure the catastrophic crisis and that life would eventually return to normal - starting with soccer, a beloved national pastime for the people of Haiti.

Sports and competition have the capacity to inspire and elevate us in ways great and small. I wish the U.S. Men’s Soccer Team and our own Texas teammates lots of luck as they represent our nation at the 2010 World Cup.

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