Did you know that the United States is the only country in the world that doesn’t consider soccer to be the top sport? In fact we have even changed its name: its real name is “Football”. Interestingly, the rest of the world views our version of football, in the same way we view Australian Rules football—quaint but silly.
We American soccer fans often feel like we are culturally isolated from the rest of our citizens. But there we are; often you can see us strolling down a grocery store aisle, in one of our funny looking replica jersey’s. I have an assortment from around the world, but will most likely be seen sporting Arsenal (England), Fulham (England), or Argentina (National Team).
There is at this moment, one of the biggest and most important sporting tournaments in the world happening in Europe. It could be considered second only to the World Cup in popularity. I’m talking about the Euro 2008. Ask your neighbor and he’ll probably say, “The what?” The US National Team, don’t get to go because, well, they aren’t European. But we do get to choose teams to root for.
As Americans, we soccer fans tend to pick the team representing “the old country”, in order to take pride in our ancestral heritage. This is easy for this tournament, considering that most our immigration came from European countries. So in my case, I have one team to route for. My first choice would be for Wales (father’s side), but since they didn’t qualify, I can’t. Now my team will be Holland.
My mother’s family is a Dutch family from Shaker Heights Ohio. There used to be a Dutch community in part of the area where Shaker would later be incorporated as a city, where my grandfather grew up on farm. At one time, I used to own a home on land where this farm once stood. One of my cousins has the letter that our great-grandfather had to sign, renouncing the King of Holland, in order to become a US citizen.
I was also raised in Shaker Heights and this community did not gather around the television every four years for the World Cup. We were never indoctrinated into tribal allegiances by soccer-crazed families and neighbors. But somewhere along the line, I got bitten by the soccer bug. The sport is simple, yet beautiful. And I can’t get enough. With soccer on cable TV, I can watch up to six games a week, from all over the world.
So this month, while our entire nation doesn’t walk off the job or wake up at two in the morning to watch games, the way they will in the rest of the world, I will be all alone in front of my TV cheering for the Dutch.
Holland just thumped Italy 3-0. Hurrah for the men in orange.