Clinton fails to persuade as US miss a trick

By Andrew Warshaw in Zurich

Billl_Clinton_Dec_1December 1 - It started optimistically with phrases like "a true melting pot of passion, dreams and hope" and being the most diverse nation on earth.

It then got back on track after the otherwise charismatic Hollywood actor Morgan Freeman, who knows better than anyone how to read a script, accidentally missed a page.

But what should have been a coup de grace by former US president Bill Clinton, arguably one of the world's great public speakers, turned into a rambling diatribe when 2022 World Cup favourites the US made their final pitch to FIFA today.

Clinton, we were told, missed the final rehearsal for the 30-minute address but that didn't excuse a hugely underwhelming performance in which he expounded on his charitable work since leaving the presidency – all very laudable but hardly the subject matter of the day.

There were several upbeat moments.

Landon Donovan did his bit for his country by recalling how surprised he was back home to find such emotional reaction to the US team's exploits in South Africa.

Freeman was terrific when, pausing in all the right places, he told his audience: "If you haven't lived in America, you haven't seen just how deep their love of football really is.

"You'd be surprised, maybe even shocked."

Bid president Sunil Gulati made sure no stone was left unturned when detailing the commercial and revenue opportunities that would result from the US being hosts again.

President Barack Obama spoke briefly by video link but it was Clinton's live appearance the world waited for - and Clinton who disappointed with a closing speech that over-ran by seven minutes.

It wasn't either persuasive or powerful.

Yes he talked about his daughter embracing football as a six-year-old and yes, he spoke of how the sport could be played by low-income fans who need nothing more than a ball and a pair of shoes.

Clinton's foundation, he said, had taken him "to over 100 countries since I left office.

"And everywhere I've been, I've seen the power of football."

But if the United States campaign team hoped their secret weapon would put the finishing victorious touch to their campaign, they missed a trick.

It may not, of course, make any difference.

"The US may already have secured enough votes.

But if they lose by one vote on Thursday, they may look back at today and realise it was a lost opportunity.

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