National Allegiances Now an Open Market
Published: Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 18, 2012 00:09
For many Americans, the concept of nationalism is still quite foreign. Many people do not seem to understand that citizens of countries other than the United States actually believe that their country is the greatest on Earth.
Of course, “greatness” is a subjective term, which is what makes one’s inherent sense of national superiority such an interesting aspect of human nature. And nowhere is nationalism more prominent than in the world of soccer.
In North America, professional teams tend to provoke the most love, hate and tension. When it comes to soccer, it is national competition that is the most divisive.
The FIFA World Cup is the most-watched sporting event in the world. One of its most enticing features is the fact that it is all about national pride: Money, business and all of the so-called dirty aspects of sports are ostensibly out the window.
More recently, however, players have been deciding their international futures based not on which country they call home but on which gives them the best chance to either make or win the World Cup or, worse, which team will give them the most international exposure to parlay into a fatter club contract.
From an American perspective, the most well-known such case is that of Giuseppe Rossi, the New Jersey-born Villarreal striker who chose to represent Italy rather than the United States in international competition. He has now scored six goals in 27 appearances for the Italians.
It could be argued that Rossi was immersed enough in Italian culture — as he moved there when he was only 12 — to consider himself an Italian, but I don’t buy that. By that age, one should have enough of a sense of pride and patriotism to identify more with the country of one’s birth than one’s country of teenage residence.
Unfortunately, what was once a stage for pride and national loyalty has become a platform for personal gain.
This past summer, Canadian-born Jonathan de Guzman — a former Villarreal midfielder now on loan to Swansea in England — attended a Canadian men’s national team game in Toronto.
Dressed in a Canadian team jacket and standing under the bleachers at BMO Field, de Guzman denied reports that he was ready to commit to the Canadian national team, instead reiterating his intention to play for the Netherlands, his adopted homeland where he had recently gained citizenship.
Responding to a question about his previously reported interest in playing for Canada, de Guzman said, “It was just the fact that I wasn’t really playing much in Villarreal, and obviously, when you don’t play that much, you need to refresh your mind.”
While the fact that de Guzman was so blunt about his message shows a lack of respect — he went on to talk about how much the Canadian team needed him — his message itself paints a depressing picture of what the international soccer landscape has become.
As we enter an NHL lockout stemming in part from the willingness of players to leave their teams for big money elsewhere, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the idea of loyalty may soon sit behind glass in a hall of fame somewhere as a relic of the 20th century.
As a passionate Canadian, I could never imagine suiting up for another team. Despite the fact that — had I possessed post-high- school-level soccer skills — I would have been eligible to represent England, the United States and maybe even Germany, I would be embracing the red and white, World Cup or bust.
De Guzman, Rossi, and many others before them have felt the wrath of their true countrymen for their decisions. I hope that’s a sign that these cases are aberrations rather than the impending norm.
But try as I might, I can’t repress the fear that one day I’ll hear the dreaded news: Brazil buys Lionel Messi for $200 million.
Arik Parnass is a sophomore in the College. CANDID CANADIAN appears every Tuesday.