Michael Lewis (to the right of President Clinton) and some of the U.S. media corps at the World Cup.

Michael Lewis had the opportunity to be part of a roundtable to interview President Clinton at the 2010 World Cup. Here is a repost of his story in BigAppleSoccer.com on June 26, 2010.

By Michael Lewis

JOHANNESBURG — I have to admit. There are not many times when this veteran reporter is awed by his interview subject.

Pele certainly comes to mind as I interviewed him only a month after he signed with Cosmos way back in 1975 when I was a young pup in the business.

There are probably others that come to mind, but not at the moment.

Then there was Thursday.

It doesn’t get any more unique and better than talking to the former president of the United States — William J. Clinton.

Ten journalists had that opportunity to talk to President Clinton at the Saxon Hotel, a former estate that caters to dignitaries and heads of state, about 10-15 minutes away from our home hotel, the Protea Fire and Ice.

The security was at the front gate, where we had to show our official World Cup media credentials to get in.

We waited about 20 minutes as Clinton finished another meeting.

Just before he entered, we were told to stand when Clinton came into the room. We got an opportunity to introduce ourselves to Clinton. I said, “Michael Lewis, New York Daily News,” as I shook his hand.

Clinton’s face brightened up just a bit in acknowledgement as he said, “my local paper.”

The former president has the William J. Clinton Foundation offices in Harlem.

There was only one rule: we could not ask any questions outside of soccer, the World Cup and the bid itself.

No problem.

For the next 48 minutes, Clinton entertained and educated the writers.

Always at arm’s length when I watched and listened to Clinton during his presidency, I was fascinated by his breadth of knowledge of so many subjects, whether it was archaeology, history or how a man must exercise muscles as he grows older (which was brought up when Clinton spoke about Nelson Mandela for a bit).

While taking notes, I tried to take in the entire experience, listening to Clinton and seeing how a subject that did not seem related at the beginning of an answer would be brought back into the conversation later on.

Of course, the core of the talk was about soccer, from when he first “discovered” the sport, to Chelsea playing in youth leagues in Washington, D.C. to Wednesday night’s fantastic finish and his reaction to the game and meeting the U.S. team to the World Cup bid itself.

He admitted he was still learning about the sport, a bit of information that I was going to use later on.

Those 48 minutes went all too fast.

After Clinton was finished, we took a group photo (heaven knows how many he has taken through the years — he has to have the patience of a saint) I was able to give him a Big Apple pin and told him that I had a book for him to read — Soccer For Dummies — and that I knew the author quite well.

Being the ultimate diplomat, Clinton said he liked the Dummies books series because they are so helpful.

Hmmm. Maybe I will send him an autographed copy when I return home.

Needless to say, I got a lot of stick from some of my colleagues afterwards for the pin and unabashed advertisement for the book.

Hey, if you’re not going to blow your own vuvuzela, as the natives here like to say, who is going to?

In all fairness to equal political time, I have not seen a member of the Bush family in South Africa. However, one Bush has watched U.S. games and visited the team in the locker room — one Reggie Bush, who plays for the New Orleans Saints in a different type of football.

Here is another story you might be interested in:

MEET THE PREZ: Repost: Clinton talks about the goal, the team and the U.S. World Cup bid