Brazil’s five World Cup championships are second to none, and the nation produces global soccer stars like the U.S. does basketball players. Brazil’s jogo bonito is globally recognized as an ideal combination of sports, culture, and national personality.
Given this backdrop, Cobi Jones and Tiffany Roberts Sahaydak, visited Manaus, Brasília, Fortaleza, Natal, and Recife as U.S. Department of State Sports Envoys to share more about their experiences off-the-pitch than on it. The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs together with Mission Brazil partnered to implement the “Sports for All” strategy that uses sports to engender greater social inclusion, promote education, and teach job skills. “Sports for All” guides all Mission sports programming through the 2016 Olympics and Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro and is also part of ECA’s efforts to reach people through sports, efforts that also include a new World Cup Sports Diplomacy website.
Sports Envoys Cobi Jones and Tiffany Roberts Sahaydak help launch Mission Brazil’s 2015 Youth Ambassadors Program at a ceremony in the World Cup stadium in Brasilia, Brazil, in May 2014. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]
While Tiffany’s Olympic gold medal and World Cup Trophy are qualification enough to garner reverence, her lessons in teamwork, leadership, and female empowerment distinguish her as an ambassador of the sport. In a country where soccer is loved by all, but still considered by most the domain of men, her messages resonated for the hundreds of aspiring young female athletes with whom she engaged.
Cobi’s 164 caps for the U.S. Men’s National Team and experience in three World Cups, not to mention a stint at one of Brazil’s historically dominant clubs, establish his on-field bona fides. But when he talks about being singled out as the worst player his youth coach has ever seen, facing racism at a young age, and having to prove himself as a walk-on at UCLA, Cobi’s work ethic, dedication, and perseverance merit the headlines.
Mission Brazil was honored to host these two American sports legends. Tiffany’s role on the U.S. Woman’s National Team that single-handedly raised the profile of female soccer globally was an inspiration to young girls in Consulate Recife’s all-female Copinha do Mundo tournament, or “World Cuplet.” One of the girls in attendance was so overwhelmed by the joy and emotion of the event that she was brought to tears as she spoke to Cobi and Tiffany after the tournament.
Sports Envoys Tiffany Roberts Sahaydak and Cobi Jones pose for a photo with Brazilian youth during a soccer clinic they conducted in Brazil in May 2014. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]
A coach remarked about the impact of a soccer clinic for marginalized youth from outside of Brasília saying, “This event filled my players with inspiration and confidence, because for the first time we attended an event without being discriminated against for not having a uniform or being from a violent area of the city.”
About the Author: Matthew Ferner serves as a Cultural Affairs Specialist with the SportsUnited Division of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. He’s currently serving a rotation as a Cultural Affairs Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Brasilia, Brazil.