World Cup 2010 – Trinis don’t support the US, but I do!
I recently found myself in the surprising position of supporting the United States in a football match. Some background and historical context is necessary here.
It’s surprising to me, because I spent the last 20-odd years wishing nothing but total absolute failure to the United States football efforts. You see, I am a Trinidadian, and to us, the US represents and reminds us of our efforts to rise as a football power in the region. (You’ll notice that I address the sport by its proper name, and not by that ‘soccer’ bullshit it’s called here, and only here. But I digress.) This is a carryover from a fateful day in Trinidadian football history.
If you mention the words ‘November 19th, 1989’ to any Trinidadian over the age of 30 (and many younger), they will cringe, cuss, or both. That’s the day that the Trinidadian and Tobagonian team was to qualify for its first ever World Cup, by drawing with the United States. The country came together in a manner never before, or since. EVERYONE in the country – all 1.3 million of us – wore red that day. All. We. Had. To. Do. Was. Tie. Well, the US scored one goal, and that was all it took. USA 1, T&T 0.
‘The US represents and reminds us of our efforts to rise as a football power in the region’
World Cup dreams dashed, country plunged into mourning (for years), and a visceral hatred of all things American (football-related, because we’ll adopt pretty much everything else from here) was born. Most Trinidadians will tell you that the US is the ONE TEAM that we want to beat at football. And because fate laughs at that kind of thing, of course it has never happened when it mattered. Not. Bloody. Once.
In the ensuing 21 years, US football has grown in strength and skill, while Trinidad and Tobago’s has had some great moments (witness: the smallest country to ever make the World Cup finals, 2006), but has sputtered. This makes the average Trinidadian football supporter (i.e., all 1.3 million of us) livid – because most of you could give a shit about football and/or the World Cup, while we consider ourselves to be part of that whole ‘rest of the world’ that thinks it’s the greatest game on earth. And rightly so. Because it is.
You don’t respect the game. You belittle it because it doesn’t fit your notion of what a sport is, and because you don’t dominate it on a world stage. You didn’t invent it, so you don’t think it has as much worth as carryball (a somewhat entertaining game – during the few minutes that they actually play the game, but what American football really should be called), baseball, basketball or hockey. Most of you won’t watch a game unless the US is playing in it – evidence to the rest of the world that you don’t love the game itself. It seems that unless there’s a possibility of jamming millions of dollars worth and hours of marketing into a game, you aren’t interested. Contrast that with a game that can be played anywhere, by anyone, and that requires 45 minutes of uninterrupted-by-commercials playing time at a stretch. No wonder you don’t like it; no one is telling you to do so.
‘You belittle it because it doesn’t fit your notion of what a sport is, and because you don’t dominate it on a world stage’
I’ve come to ignore the criticisms against football by Americans, because I’ve come to believe that you’ll never understand or admire or respect the beautiful game – and that’s okay. The rest of the world does not need the validation of the United States to know that it plays the best game in the world, and you haven’t earned the right to be loved by the footballing world. (Yes, you must earn the right. This is football.)
That said – the US has a really good side in 2010. It’s ranked 14th in the world, out of 202. It pains many a Trinbagonian to say this, because you don’t love the game – while we do, and we’re ranked 94th, right between the football powerhouses of Uzbekistan and Qatar. That’s some bullshit.
But I find that it does not pain me to say it anymore. During the last World Cup game against Slovenia (yes, the US was in fact robbed, and should have won that game), I found myself in a couple of philosophical discussions with other Trinbagonians on Twitter – largely because I was now in the very small minority of “Trinidadians who support the US in world football”. Sacrilege and blasphemy.
‘I realized some time back that there were a bunch of good reasons to support the United States in world football’
I realized some time back that there were a bunch of good reasons to support the United States in world football – despite its lack of respect for the game and those who love it (y’all really do scorn anyone that doesn’t agree with you on this – it’s not an attractive trait) – and only one, twenty-one year-old reason not to:
1. I live here. And I’m a citizen now. So it’s my team as well.
2. My children are Americans – little Massholes, as a matter of fact. They will grow up knowing this country as theirs, and I feel (strongly) that they should grow up to be proud of it. Makes little sense to be a non-supporter of the country of my children. Who knows – they might represent it at something someday.
3. This country has been very good to me, and I feel privileged to be here.
4. I think it’s kinda rude to come to a country, live here, voluntarily become a citizen – and then trash it on a “world stage” (even if most of y’all could give a shit about it)
5. There’s actually a Trinidadian on the US team – Robbie Findley. Dual citizen. That’s one more Trinidadian than any other team, apart from T&T itself.
6. I think it’s a tad disingenuous to criticize the lack of support for football in the US, and then not support one of the few things that might actually build that support (i.e., the US doing well at the World Cup)
7. The better the US does on the world stage, the more respect the CONCACAF region gets from FIFA (it’s the region the US and T&T play in, for those who don’t know), and the greater the likelihood of more World Cup qualifying spots for other, smaller countries in the region – like Trinidad and Tobago – in the long run. In an ironic twist of fate, it’s actually in the best interest of Trinidad and Tobago for the US to do well at world football.
Still – most Trinbagonians can’t and won’t support the US in the World Cup. November 19, 1989, still stings for many, and I understand why. Truth be told, it did for me until I married an American and fathered a couple of them. But I now honestly, truly hope the United States kicks some ass in this World Cup. I think they have a good team, and they play a decent game. If you love the game itself, you have to admire their comeback against Slovenia the other day – and how the US has gone from a football joke to a legitimate force in a relatively short space of time. The US/Slovenia game was the most entertaining of the World Cup (as of June 19th), and it happened on a day that Germany lost to Serbia and England put down the biggest load of shite I’ve seen on a football pitch in a long time. Clearly the power balance is shifting somewhat; more countries from North America, Asia, and Africa are challenging the perennial European and South American titans, and that’s good.
So now, I have three teams that I actively support, and one continent, in order of fervor:
1. Trinidad and Tobago. First, foremost, and forever. As we say, fyah bun anyone who come to play we…including my #2 and #3. And if FIFA ever allows the West Indies to field a West Indian team, that’s my team too. Fyah bun everyone else.
2. Brazil. Because I’ve been watching World Cup since I was a young child, and childhood heroes are almost impossible to displace. And because if you love the game, you have to love Brazil – because no one plays it more beautifully.
3. United States. For all the reasons stated above.
4. Any team from Africa. Just because I think it would be more than cool to have an African country kick some European ass in a World Cup final.
So there you go. Come on, USA, in South Africa 2010! (Unless you get to play Brazil. And whenever you play Trinidad and Tobago. Fyah bun yuh!)
And really, reason #8 is that if you don’t get past the first round, the two people working at ESPN who actually give a crap about football will whine and bitch about that call in the USA/Slovenia game for the next 4 8 12 years – and no one who loves football wants to hear that shit.
This article was first published on Gary’s personal blog www.trinilikesalt.tumblr.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @TriniLikeSalt and get in on the World Cup ole talk.