US Secretary of State Antony Blinken waves before boarding his plane at Ciampino Airport in Rome to travel to Bari, Italy, on June 28, 2021, as part of Blinken’s week long trip in Europe. (Photo by Andrew Harnik / POOL / AFP) (Photo by ANDREW HARNIK/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
UPDATED 5:59 PM PT – Monday, November 21, 2022
Secretary of State Antony Blinken watched the United States’ Men’s National Soccer Team’s first game in the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
Blinken was one of the estimated 43,000 fans in attendance at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium in Al-Rayyan, where the U.S. played against Wales. The game resulted in a one-to-one draw.
“One of the things that we do is we engage in what we call sports diplomacy,” Blinken said. “We use sports as a way of connecting people, connecting people to our country.”
Others in attendance were Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard, Canadian Development Minister Harjit Sajjan, and Hasan Al Thawadi, head of the committee that organized the World Cup in Qatar.
While in Qatar, the Secretary of State is also slated to hold talks with Qatari officials. That includes the nation’s foreign minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani.
Before attending the game, Blinken stopped by an event involving local students. There, he spoke about soccer’s unifying power.
“I’m a lifelong lover of football, a great mediocre player, but a lover of the sport,” Blinken said. “And the thing that’s so powerful about it is everywhere that I go in the world, I find other people who love the game, and they love to play it. They love to watch it enough to argue about it. They love to support a team with all the joy and heartbreak that that brings. But it’s an incredibly powerful way of bringing people together.”
Qatar is under heavy criticism for a wide range of human rights abuses in the lead-up to the World Cup. The U.S. team is next scheduled to play England on Friday.