I deem June 26, 2010 as the day my shoulders ached ‘till I could not feel my arms anymore. I remember being crammed shoulder to shoulder with two portly men in Claddagh Irish Pub, a hole in the wall bar tucked into the hills of Pittsburgh. Beer was spilling onto my MARADONA powder blue Argentinean jersey as I was cheering on... not the United States but Ghana. Ghana of all teams. Ghana, a small country in the folds of North Western Africa. But I was not the only one dressed inappropriately for a US vs. Ghana soccer game on American soil. All around me, there were people in other jerseys: a green DOS SANTOS Mexican jersey, a RONALDO Royal Blue jersey. Looking back at that day, which team were we really supporting? I think I fell in love with the swift glide of the soccer ball regardless of which team had it. I was not the only one who was not cheering for America. When Ghana made a goal, Claddagh erupted in cheers, my shoulders smashed by the crowd as they danced against my withering body as the MARADONA jersey crumpled onto my skin.
My favorite image in How Soccer Explains the World is the scene on page 247 where half of the “Washington stadium might as well have been Tegucigalpa” because of all the Honduran supporters at the Honduras vs US game. What I find so fascinating by international sports following is that every American will not follow the American team. As Thomas said “Globalism is America”, I agree. Now let us use soccer as an allegory for the world, I would be team India. Although I was raised in this country, and I am “Americanized”, there is something about my father’s background that gets to me. He came to this country to make a name for himself and to be the bread winner for his family. America was the land of hope for him. But I think in response to his situation of moving to the first world, I can not forget where he is coming from and neither can he. That is the immigrant paradox: we love what this country has to offer us but at the same time, we can not forget where we are from. And for those who do not have that immigrant story, there is a sense of “moda” or fashion to it. The international scene seems “cosmopolitan” and “chic”. In one of the chapters of this book, Foer’s writing style changes. He grows even more excited when describing the Barcelona Soccer Team’s playing style and history. It is his favorite team. But why is it his favorite team? A part of it is their playing style but a part of it was their story. They were a team that was the voice of a movement for a sovereign nation- state. There was a sense sheer rebellion in the team. That sense of political rebellion is the sweet taste of defiance.
I think Americans often like the fashion of revolution or the success stories that are similar to the immigrant's story in this country. Like Maradona, my hero. This man, like several soccer players, came from the slums, from nothing. And now, he is everything. He reminds me so much of my father and his pursuit for achieving something so seemingly impossible. He is Pibe de Oro. The Golden Boy. He is the prince who conquered the world. This is what soccer is to me. This is what globalization is to me: the success stories, and the not so successful success stories all woven into the fabric of an ever changing jersey we wear.