When I was younger and hugely into basketball, I decided that I was going to coach the first Swiss Women’s Olympic Basketball Team (note: I have no idea if they have a basketball team, I had just assumed it would be the first). I had no interested in the Canadian national team (much like now), but was set on the Swiss. To me that was, and still is, the country I wanted to represent.
You see, I’m a first generation kid. Where my parent’s come from, the food we eat, the holiday traditions that we have, the art we have around the house, that’s what I identify with.
With this in mind, I cannot figure out why people were branded as “traitors” for playing for the countries they felt more closer to, their roots, rather than the ones they were born in (Owen Hargreaves, Giuseppe Rossi, etc.) Before you jump and attack me about being a bad Canadian (uh, isn’t multiculturalism a part of being Canadian? Point for me!), let’s look at this a couple of ways. First, that you don’t only have pride for the country that you’re born in and second, soccer is about making money.
You guys know, I am a mutt. And because of my mutt-i-ness, it never occurred to me to “be” Canadian. Rather, I have always tried to juggle the European and Asian sides of me. Being close to my Swiss grandpa growing up (let’s face it Go Wüest, I was his favourite) and spending most time there, I first and foremost identify with Swiss. Second comes Italian, because, hey, it’s easiest and the Asian side comes up whenever it’s trendy. Recently I took a test to see if I was a bone marrow match, and you should have seen all the check marks next to the questions asking my ethnicity (I didn’t see the “multiple” option until the end. WHY HAVE IT AT THE END?!) “Being Canadian” just never felt right. If I had to choose a nationality on a piece of paper, I am not if I would automatically write “Canadian.”
With this in mind, I can understand why first generations feel this pull towards their home countries. If you’re raised by immigrants, you think differently. Canada is a place when your parents came to, not necessarily where you come from. Obviously that differs from person-to-person, but I completely understand the feeling. As I look to my right, I have a Swiss flag hanging on my cd case, an Italian scarf drapped beside me, and a Filipino shirt folded on my chair, ready to be put in a drawer. Canada is not an identifier of me.
So to say that someone is a traitor because they don’t feel the same connection to Canada as someone else (regardless of their generation) seems to be the most UNCanadian thing possible. Isn’t that our point? Mosaic, not melting pot? When was it decided that, “you should be proud of your roots… but only up to a certain point.” Don’t get me wrong, I like Canada, I am happy to “be” Canadian, but it would never occur to me to check how many medals “we” won during the Olympics.
Note how I said Olympics, and not World Cup. Which brings me to my second point…
Why are people shocked when soccer players go to where the money, and the pride, is?! I know we all want to believe in this bullshit fluff that you play for, I don’t even know what, the team? The fans? But come on, that’s far from reality and you will be very disappointed if you keep believing soccer is just about heart. Cynical? Yes. Being a soccer player is like any other job (kinda, sorta). You may like where you work, but eventually you move on to bigger, and better, opportunities to further your career. It is your career after all. So while a small team may be good at the beginning, the end goal is to be the best in the world; to win Champions League, the World Cup. And that may mean leaving behind a team and the fans in the process. But why are fans so sensitive? Why are they so resentful, and needy, to players? Player X is being offered more money and better team to play for than Country Y or Team Z? We should be proud that they’re moving on, that our boy from Small Town Where Ever is playing with the big leagues, and not resentful that they’re not sticking it out with us to the bitter end. And it will be a bitter end.
I mean, come on, if given the chance, would YOU rather play for Canada in the World Cup, or for Italy, Brazil, England (well maybe not), Netherlands, Spain, etc.?
Even if you don’t make the squad this year, there is always a chance that you will in the future. Except for Italy. But they don’t even choose their number one club goal scorer.
So instead of complaining that he’s going, or he didn’t want to be called up, be happy on the globalization of soccer (SEE! I am reading Soccernomics!) and stop being so needy for Chrissakes!