Kerry to Middle East: ‘Just Do It’

Photograph by Jacquelyn Martin/AFP via Getty Images

Ambassador to Algeria Henry Ensher (2nd L) and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (C) walk alongside Algerian Minister of Foreign Affairs Ramtane Lamamra (4th R), Algerian Ambassador to the U.S. Abdallah Baali (3rd R), and Director General for the Americas at the Algerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ahcene Boukhalfa (2nd R), as they review an Algerian Honour Guard upon their arrival in Algiers, Algeria, on April 2, 2014.

In Algeria, proud of its World Cup qualification, soccer is on the minds of a lot of young people.

Which offered a visiting U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry a chance to make a metaphorical diplomatic pitch — at  a portable futbol pitch in front of the flagship Nike shop in Algiers, its biggest on the African continent.

At one point in his off-the-cuff remarks, Kerry said that maybe he should employ Nike’s famous motto in those ongoing and frustrating peace talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders — advising them to “just do it.”

“The events that I’ve been working on over the course of the last days, the diplomacy we’ve been involved in, has prompted me to want to take the Nike motto, `Just Do It,’ and say to them, `Just Do It.,” he said, adding: “But I don’t know if that would have worked so well.”

Kerry chatted with the kids –11 boys and girls serving as photogenic props  kicking balls into the goal — about the lifelong value of having participated in team sports.

“I want you to know that the lessons you learn on the playing field are lessons that will stay with you for all of your life,” said Kerry, a hockey player in his day who put his own skills on display during his 2004 campaign for president.

“One of the things we learn from sports, whether it’s the Olympics or different events where people are brought together because of diplomacy like years ago, a ping pong match became the early way that the United States and China began to talk to each other again.”

At the soccer pitch, he was joined by Mohamed Reda Younes, a 19-year old goalie from a local Algerian league team.

This was Kerry’s first visit  as secretary state to Algeria, where he opened a U.S.-Algeria Strategic Dialogue and spoke  with government officials, including President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

“One of the things we are talking about is how to grow the partnership between the United States and Algeria in the economy,” Kerry said. “And you’re an example here with this Nike store of the way you create jobs here, but you also create jobs in the United States and it’s a great partnership…. Nike is setting an example.”

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