US President Barack Obama showered praise on US Soccer Federation’s (USSF) Indian-American President Sunil Gulati as he welcomed the US women’s World Cup-winning champions into the White House on Tuesday.
“I want to recognize a lot of people who made these incredibly talented women-- put them in a position to be able to showcase their talent so effectively,” he said on welcoming the team that overcame Japan 5-2 in a thrilling Canada 2015 Final in July
“First of all, US Soccer President Sunil Gulati. Please give him a big round of applause,” said Obama amid applause. He also praised the team’s “outstanding coach, Jill Ellis.”
Allahabad-born Gulati, 56, was unanimously re-elected to a record third four-year term as USSF president in March 2014. A former president of Kraft Soccer for the New England Revolution in Major League Soccer, he is also a senior lecturer in the economics department of Columbia University.
“These champions deserve all the attention that they’ve been getting. After 16 long years, too many heartbreaks, they flew north to put America back on top of the soccer world and they did it in style,” Obama said. All 23 players, coaches and support staff filed in to the East Room, greeted by a loud ovation from the invited guests. To begin the ceremony, a 13-year-old girl, Ayla, from Massachusetts, shared a letter she wrote to the President and Mrs Obama towards the end of Canada 2015.
The letter explained 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. 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,” he said.
“Girls like Ayla [were told] they weren’t somehow supposed to be as good at sports as boys,” 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.”