Thursday, June 22, 2006

WORLD CUP: Who Do You Root For?

Interesting piece in the Washington Post, Who do you root for??? Something that immigrants, and kids of immigrants can relate to.



Duh! That is kind of easy for me.

I can relate to this one too:

"When the U.S. scores a goal, am I going to be jumping out of my seat and high-fiving my friends?" asks Lopez. "Yes!"

Naturally: He was born in Cleveland, 33 years ago.

But: His parents are natives of Peru.

So: "If Peru were in the Cup, I'd be going, 'Go Peru!' "

Latino Americans may be in the trickiest position of all. The immigration wars are being fought over this community in particular. And Washington's Hispanic population features such a wide spectrum of national identities and economic classes.

At the start of every one of the 64 games, picking a sentimental favorite can be like running the data through a flowchart. If neither the old country nor the United States is competing, the default position is to support any other Latin American team (including Brazil), plus Spain and probably Portugal.

I hear that one (go Brazil!)
Maria Alecia Izuttiaga in "El Venezolano" calls this one taking out the euro-centric "family tree", a dilemma facing Mr. Lopez our Peruvian-American here.

He sounds relieved he doesn't have to grapple with that dilemma of identity and allegiance. But he does have another: Three of his grandparents were born in Spain. (The fourth? Italian. ) The family still has a vineyard in Spain, and he spent many a fond boyhood summer in that country.

As Andres Oppenheimer illustrated.
I have to confess that I thoroughly enjoyed it when Trinidad and Tobago, a country whose national sport is cricket and whose population of just over one million makes it the smallest nation ever to participate in a World Cup, managed to tie 0-0 with soccer powerhouse Sweden. Or when Ecuador beat mightier Poland 2-0, or when Ghana -- playing for the first time in a World Cup -- easily won against the Czech Republic, 2-0.

See, it is not only rooting for the underdog, you make common cause with the soccer minnows, particularly if they are from third world countries playing a European power.

At last, the game begins. When Costa Rica scores a goal against Germany, the day laborers leap to their feet and shout huzzahs in three languages. The Africans always back their Latino brothers against a European power, and vice versa.

A rule if you are Latin American (except Argentinian), and you are not from a soccer power - or even from non-soccer countries. In 1982, when Brazil scored goals, fireworks would go off in Panama City. When Brazil lost that game to Italy some of my Nicaraguan classmates were crying. As the Post article also says, Brazil is default for many African fans for the Brazilian style of play, and that can be extended to those who enjoy attacking football played with flair.