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Sunday, September 21, 2014

Tuning a country in to ‘the beautiful game’

While Americans flocked to Team USA’s World Cup matches, our nation has yet to find the sort of fever for the sport held by other countries.

July 15, 2014

The World Cup has come to a close, and along with its conclusion come feelings of victory, despair and, for some, relief.

For myself, the emotions of anguish and rage are primary. Being Argentinian, witnessing Mario Götze put a volley in the net in the 113th minute of extra time was nothing short of tragic.

As I sat in a sports bar, covered from head to toe in blue and white, the German supporters all around me went wild when the 22-year-old Götze bagged the game-winning goal so late in the game.

I simply couldn’t believe that Lionel Messi and La Albiceleste weren’t able to get past Die Mannschaft in the most important sporting event in the world. My national pride was hurt, and I was depressed.

This World Cup was filled with moments of triumph and moments of humiliation (ahem, Brazil). Records, along with hearts, were broken. Rising stars showed their true potential, while others failed to perform. And amid the billions of people worldwide who intently watched the month-long tournament, I seemed to be surrounded by the most disinterested bunch. Granted, the United States had incredibly high ratings for Team USA games, showing a surge in fandom that surpassed the viewerships of both the last World Series and NBA Finals. I was there in Chicago’s Grant Park, surrounded by what, at the moment, seemed like soccer’s newest enthusiasts.

I soon realized, however, that this was not the case, and that the interest was fueled mainly by patriotism.

As soon as the Yanks were knocked out by Belgium in the Round of 16, the fascination in much of the country faded, and with good reason. I can’t say that I would’ve been immensely captivated had Argentina been knocked out in the earlier stages, so blaming someone for not caring for that reason would be moronic.

The only difference was that as soon as this happened, so many Americans resorted back to hating on my beloved sport. Posts of “Oh well, it’s only soccer” and “At least we’ve got real football” littered the Twittersphere, outing the true bandwagon World Cup fans.

Soccer is an incredible thing. It unites nations, it brings people pride, it amazes and it upsets. It is the world’s sport and it is rightfully dubbed “the beautiful game.” For so many to hate on it is outrageous to me. Arguments calling it boring or labeling players “grass fairies” are insanely ignorant, especially since I have been raised on the sport and know the hard work it takes. It disgusts me that people like Ann Coulter bash something they know so little about.

I moved to the United States when I was six years old. Spanish is my first language, Argentina holds my first memories and soccer is my first love. The majority of my extended family lives in my hometown of Rosario, which is coincidentally also the hometown of both Messi and fellow player Angel di Maria.

I am Argentinian through and through. I bleed blue and white and my patriotism belongs to my homeland. This is part of the reason why depression hit so hard following our demise to the Germans. None of the Americans understood quite what I was going through. In fact, a fair amount of my friends who, mind you, know nothing about soccer, joked “Messi’s a loser” and “Argentina isn’t good enough.”

I was outraged, but there was nothing I could do. The better team won and I’m extremely proud of my country nonetheless.

The ignorance I’m surrounded by when it comes to soccer can only be counteracted by opening people’s minds to the beauty of the sport, which is a revolution that seems to have slowly started in this country.

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Article comments

July 19, 2014 at 9:27 a.m.

Emma : Interesting article. Your point about how people bashed the sport on twitter after USA was out was especially interesting because it brings up the use of twitter in this World Cup. Do you think it was a positive or negative force? I mean it could have spread the fervor you felt or simply created an army of red, white, and blue wearing bandwagon fans.

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