About the Author: Barry B. White serves as U.S. Ambassador to Norway.
My own football -- or, as we Americans say, soccer -- experience has been following my three sons to their many games over the years. My sons' enthusiasm for soccer has taught me how much the game means to so many around the world, something we saw during the World Cup in South Africa earlier this year. It is also something I've observed right here in Ekeberg, just outside of Oslo, at the Norway Cup.
Started in 1972, the Norway Cup has grown to become the biggest youth soccer festival in the world. Over 30,000 participants come from 54 nations around the world to play 3,400 matches over the course of a week.
At one point, there were over 30 U.S. teams competing in the Norway Cup. This year, the only participating U.S. team was the Players Soccer Club from Las Vegas, Nevada. I had the opportunity to watch the team's first match, and I was not disappointed. Not only did the team win, but the young women also demonstrated good sportsmanship, representing our country with honor.
In the future, I would like to see more American youth coming to Norway, and more Norwegian youth going to the United States. The Norway Cup is an excellent starting point for these interactions, and I hope to see more U.S. teams competing in the tournament next year.
One of my local staff members played in the Norway Cup years ago and remembers it fondly as a great experience and a place where young people, often for the first time in their lives, met and developed friendships with individuals from other countries. The best arenas for diplomacy are opportunities that bring together youth from all over the world to share cultural experiences, whether in the classroom or on the soccer field.
August 12 marks International Youth Day. In December 2009, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming the year commencing this International Youth Day as the International Year of Youth. Learn more at www.un.org.