Colorado Rapids keeper Chris Sharpe: What I said to President Barack Obama
A shake of the hand and a 'Well done' from a fan is a normal experience for Colorado Rapids goalkeeper Chris Sharpe. But when the congratulations comes from the US President - and at the White House - it's fair to say the encounter is something special.
"I just replied 'thank you very much Sir, much appreciated and thank you for having us today'," recalled Sharpe, speaking with tribalfootball.com.
From his experiences with Southampton and Blackburn Rovers in England, to first team action at Viborg and taking a risk in MLS with the Rapids, football has taken Sharpe around the world. But by his own admission, a trip to the White House as part of Colorado's MLS Cup winning squad is the pinnacle.
Making the experience even more special was White House representatives informing Sharpe he was the first athlete from Australia to be meeting with President Barack Obama in Washington.
"I mean what can you say... I was told that day, that I was the first ever Australian athlete to set foot in the White House to meet the President," smiled Sharpe when recalling the moment.
"A huge honour and privilege not only for me as an Australian, but a footballer playing in a foreign country representing Australia. A day that I may never get to experience again, and a day maybe no other Australian will get to experience.
"So a huge honour for me, and something I would love to share with Australians alike."
Sharpe admits those in charge were pretty low-key about the visit. The players were also presented with their championship rings before being taken on tour of the White House.
"The tour went for about 45 minutes. We started down stairs in the entrance after going through all the security checks. The team split into three groups, with a guide in each group.
"We went through the Presidential library, the First Lady's room, and the Entrance Hall Museum, which was all on the first floor and the First Lady's garden.
"Then we proceeded upstairs, where we walked through the President's Address room, the Blue Room and Red Room and through into the Presidential dinning room."
"He addressed the 70-80 media people there, the speech went for about seven minutes," said Sharpe.
"He congratulated us on a good playoff run, had a little bit to say about our season. He also had some things to say about a few players that set some records throughout the season and a few more personal notes he was told about the training ground, which was quite funny.
"After the speech and the presentation he just proceeded to congratulate everyone and chat to our captain and coach. It was very good!"
And on his encounter with the President, Sharpe recalled: "I did get to shake hands with President Obama. Once the President made his speech and our CEO gave the President his personal jersey, he came around to the whole team and shook each player'' and staffs' hand and said 'congratulations and well done'.
"I just replied 'thank you very much Sir, much appreciated and thank you for having us today'."
He was presented with a Rapids jersey, sporting the name "OBAMA" above the number 10, by the club's managing director Jeff Plush.
When told that the number 10 shirt was normally reserved for a team's leader, Obama joked: "That is me and Messi. We're right up there."
Obama then explained that he was a "soccer dad" who is "used to watching everyone crowd round the ball, then it kind of pops out somewhere and everyone runs over to it".
Sharpe laughed: "I mean it has to be right up there with one of the best experience's not only of my football career but my life!
"It was a nice reward for all the hard work our team put in last season. But to meet the President of the United States and shake his hand... Arguably the most powerful man on the planet! What a day!"
The Rapids players also had an hour on the White House lawn taking soccer drills with the children of Military families.
Sharpe added: "There were about 25 kids, we just split up into three groups. One was a shooting drill, one was a knock out game dribbling the ball around the square and we finished with a small sided game, where my team mates joined in with kids.
"Photos and autographs ran for about 30 minutes and then we left. It was a lot of fun!"
And on the trip back to Colorado, Sharpe was still trying to get his head around what he had just experienced.
"It was just a very surreal feeling. Four hours in the White House, 7-8 minutes in the President's presence, playing soccer on the White House lawn. Amazing!
"Everyone was surprised with how personable the President was, fascinated by the history inside the White House and the security surrounding it.
"On the way home we were all just trying to reflect on the experience of a special day."