Guest Column: Celebrate your ethnicity — but support the USMNT


Guest Columnist

There’s no rule that says you can’t support more than one national soccer team, especially in the cultural melting pot that is the United States of America.

Nevertheless, by the way some Americans neglect the U.S. National Team for the team of their ethnic nationality, you’d think there was.

We’ve seen it for years; many born-and-raised Americans of foreign descent proudly sporting the national jerseys of their ancestors while ignoring the games and pride associated with their very own country during World Cup and qualifying.

I used to be no different.

As the son of a Costa Rican immigrant, I was always taught by my Tico side of the family to be proud of my heritage.  It really became a big part of my identity — so much so that in 2001, when Costa Rica became the first ever team to defeat Mexico in its famous fortress Azteca Stadium in a World Cup Qualifying match, La Selección de Costa Rica actually made me a fan of the sport of soccer for the first time. I’ve been hooked ever since.  They would go on to qualify for the tournament shortly there after.

After that World Cup, I became immersed.  I transformed into a big supporter of Real Madrid, though I didn’t think much (if at all) about US Soccer — or Major League Soccer for that matter. Costa Rica matches meant everything to me, but US Soccer matches barely registered a blip on my radar.

That changed in 2005, a bit before the 2006 World Cup.

Now, looking back, I wonder how I could’ve possibly been so indifferent to the national team of my very own country, especially considering how passionate I am about it now. Upon further reflection, it seems that it was because we, as Americans, frequently identify ourselves by our ethnicity while ignoring our actual nationality: being American. We often seem to treat our country as a just a place we live while we carry on being Costa Rican, Italian, Portuguese, etc. as if we’re some English-speaking diplomats from these nations abroad.  That, of course, is the beauty of America — but it is also an unforeseen obstacle many ethnic families hurdle to become fans of the U.S. National Team.

I would tell people, “I am Costa Rican.” I’ve heard Italian-Americans frequently say, “I’m Italian”, and so on. But, when you spend enough time away from your country in the nation of your ethnicity, you really begin to realize that you frequently share little in common with countries of your ethnicity besides similar genes, some shared dishes, and sometimes, a second language.

I actually lived in Costa Rica for six months after that World Cup, and as much as I absolutely love the country and its people, I quickly learned just how “American” I was. Right off the bat upon visiting there, I told my cousins and some new friends, “I’m Costa Rican”, and they were quick to inform me, “No you’re not, man… you’re Gringo” (Which, by the way is not a derogatory or racist term in Latin America, but only a nickname for people, of any race or color, that are North American). One of my Tico cousins even went as far as to call me a “paquete Tico” (Fake Costa Rican) — jokingly of course.

Needless to say, there is nothing “fake” about what I feel when donning the Tico shirt and cheering them on from afar — but I digress.

This is a uniquely American problem when it comes to garnering grassroots soccer support; our own citizens, born and raised, are often only loyal and supportive to their respective national teams abroad than to their very own country. It’s an obstacle that keeps US Soccer (and our nation’s own Major League Soccer) from seeing the full potential that it can in the form of TV ratings, merchandise bought, tickets sold, general excitement, media coverage, and a true “sense of importance.”  These benefits that we are deprived of would really improve the infrastructure, create an even bigger demand for better coaching and academies, develop the soccer culture, and engender increased popularity and awareness in our country, which can quickly transform our improving National Soccer program to become one that can, eventually, really become a favorite to win the World Cup … in our lifetime.

In essence, the United States of America isn’t just fighting against every other nation in the World Cup; it’s also trying to win over its own citizens as well.

Playing Portugal on Sunday, many US fans will be supporting their actual home nation, but they will have many of their own Portuguese, American-born and raised friends and family wearing Portuguese national team shirts screaming at the television hoping that Portugal routs our US Men’s National Team.  They will be rallying against the men whom they have far more in common with while supporting a team with whom they share similar DNA, perhaps a second language and a few ethnic dishes to boot.

Don’t get me wrong, I totally understand where that passion and loyalty comes from, but here’s my petition: give your loyalty to both sides.  Follow your beloved foreign team representing as I still proudly support my Costa Rica, but also support the team of your home nation — especially when their interests don’t conflict. Don’t neglect your fellow countrymen, Americans just like you and I, who need the support arguably more than any other nation in the world. Let us stop being the only country where such a large percentage of its soccer fans support teams that do not represent their actual country.

Imagine the potential we can realize if all soccer fans in America put forth their support for our team?  All of the resources that support can produce for our soccer program, as well as the paradigm shift that could create for our American Sports culture as a whole? Consider all of the young athletes and children it would inspire to truly dedicate themselves to mastering the beautiful game at the highest standard. Imagine how quickly that can accelerate the process of improving American soccer, making the game truly “big” here?

Any person who makes their living in America, who calls this country home, even if they were born-and-raised somewhere else — we welcome your support. You’re as American as much as anyone else — and this is your team.

Join us in celebrating our country in the most important sporting event in the world. We’ve been missing you. And it’s never too late.

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  • Pablo

    Excellent piece.

  • Ken

    brilliant, m80. too many idiots making fun of the country they live in

  • Anonymous

    Go portugal

  • Andy

    Very true..

  • Not a bad article there.

  • BornInBerlin


  • Great Article. I could not have said it any better.

  • I’m from Costa Rica married to an american lady but frankly give more support to the US than CR based purely on the sport, the US players give their souls in the field and I like that. The ticos have all the support of the whole country and with that kind of support they should be by now at least second best in the world, soccer is the most important problem in my country and for me that is pathetic.

  • I’m Italian-American. I started watching soccer in 1986 and used to root exclusively for Italy. In 1994 I started pulling for the US too, and since 2002 the USMNT is my preferred team.

  • Tlatoani

    What a joke

  • Steve

    **** the nads. I’m not from Germany but I and the entire world will be German on Thursday.

    • Morrissey

      And, with any luck and a lot of grit, we’ll follow Ghana’s example and show that those Germans aren’t so invincible. And then I will laugh at you.

  • Alex Hernandez

    So here is the problem. Hispanics in the USA are judged for not supporting the USMNT. Some of the things I’ve heard are “If they’re born here they should support the US” “If you don’t support America and you were born here you should GTFO.”

    So when a little kid dressed as a Mariachi sings the US National Anthem at a basketball game with passion and fervor and I read comments like “Why is this little Mexican singing our National Anthem, he should go back to Mexico.” It makes it really hard to support anything USMNT.

    • Jax

      I concur with you Alex, well said. I’ll admit, I was born in the U.S. and I’m from Mexico as well. It’s so easy to romanticize the whole thing and say, we should root for our country men here in the US. How can you say that when you’re not looked on as one of the “countrymen”? When someone here sees another person who looks Caucasian they are readily looked on as Americans. When they see me, they ask me, “Where are you from”? Like some foreigner. How am I supposed to even want to support USMNT? Then there’s racism, like Alex above mentioned. The little kid dressed as a mariachi isn’t an isolated incident. I don’t feel the love, and Americans donning a big straw sombrero and some cheap sarape they bought at target for Cinco de Mayo thinking its Mexican independence day and mocking the culture doesn’t make it any better. Nor does it help when people tell you, “America, love it or leave it” when you try to discuss problems that need to be fixed. I’m sorry, I’m not complacent. So if the US needs support so bad, why don’t they invest some of the many millions (or bilions) of dollars they invest in American football, baseball or basketball. I think support is only part of the problem, money is the other. The US has some of the best athletes in the world here, just look at the Olympic medal count. But enough resources are not being given to the MLS. I think there are plenty of other ways to get that much needed support for the USMNT. And please don’t reduce my ethnicity and ties to Mexico to language and a few ethnic dishes. That’s insulting and prescisely the type of attitude that keeps me away.

  • Alex Hernandez, Jax…

    For every 1 pathetic, hateful bigot, there are 100 Americans who aren’t ignorant and embrace people of all backgrounds. In the same way you don’t want to be discriminated against, don’t lump your entire home nation together with these idiots. Every nation, no matter where you live, has to suffer their own brand of moron, but it doesn’t mean we should reject our entire country and what we stand for because of it. I hope you reconsider and support your home nation, as well as continuing to support the nation of heritage, as I do. But, to each their own. Thanks for reading, everyone!

  • Chavez is an Uncle Tom

    Chavez, you are Hispanic, you should rep the Ticos and only them. You’re not an anglo, don’t rep their team. Remember, this land belongs to the natives, not usa. Your duty is to RIch Coast. Don’t be weak.

  • A little late but still relevant

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