There has been a fair bit of discussion on the message boards of late regarding what makes a true EPL supporter. There seems to exist this notion that one cannot be a true supporter of a club if they were not born and raised in close proximity to the club’s home pitch and have not at some point in their life rolled around on the grass of said fine pitch. While I will not delve into why I disagree with that limited line of thinking here, other than to say that it’s the respect for the club and its history first and foremost, the willingness to continue your support through good years and down years, and an inexplicable link between your emotions and your club’s results on a fixture list, I began to think of the “true” supporter concept in the context of the upcoming World Cup.
Thus the question, is it possible to support a national team representing a country that is not your own?
It logically follows that a person with an affinity for football from birth would be drawn to the national team of the country of their birth when said team is competing on the international stage. What happens, however, when this assumedly linear progression breaks down? I’d imagine many factors could lead one on the path to becoming a soccer turncoat. A few reasons come to mind:
- Expatriates. While this category actually follows the supporter from birth scenario, it is the geography that changes. This may be the easiest for an outsider to understand. If you were born and raised in Ireland and decided to permanently reside in Canada, no one would question why you would don a green scarf in support of your team during a World Cup summer (or in protest with respect to the 2010 World Cup summer).
- Genealogy. If you are of Italian parents in France, no matter the allure of the Les Bleus, there is a possibility that your lineage would dictate that you support Italy during the World Cup. This support is often on full display when your parents’ or grandparents’ birthplace makes a spirited run through the competition. Again, there is an easily offered defense to your choice of support during the World Cup. After the familial connection, things get a bit more difficult to explain.
- Professional Connection. There is the supporter that is drawn to a national team because he or she avidly follows a particular club or professional league. Therefore, a Barcelona supporter may be drawn to Spain’s national team, Italy for an AC Milan supporter, or England for a fan of the EPL. While this construct is tenuous in light of the array of nationalities that make up any first team at the top clubs, if one watches Barcelona week in and week out for four years, it is understandable why Spain would be on their mind when the World Cup comes around.
- Name on the Back of the Shirt. Having a favorite player could also influence World Cup support. If your favorite player of all time is Pele, then it may follow that Brazil is the National Team that you support. If your favorite current player is Lionel Messi, then maybe it is the Argentines this time around. While this type of support can waiver, simply because of the few opportunities for any one player to play in a World Cup, it is possible that the affinity will continue even after that favorite player has retired from International competition.
- The Enamored Tourist. If you have been fortunate enough to spend any significant amount of time abroad, it’s possible that you’ve adopted the country that you’ve visited as your own. Because the World Cup happens during the summer, there is inevitably an influx of vacationers and students studying abroad on the shores of countries around the world. What better way to get pulled into the allure of the German national team than being in Germany during a lengthy World Cup run?
- Pro-Choice. There are then those supporters that have made a decision to support a particular country based on reasons other than those listed above. There could be many factors that make up this choice, appreciation for a certain style of football, for example, the beauty and flair of Brazil’s attack, the staunch defense of Italy, the grit of the United States. There could be a political cause or movement that draws one to a club, an underdog country that pulls you in, or it could come down to not having your country represented in a World Cup and wanting to have a stake in the drama that unfolds on the pitch.
Any of these could give rise to why a person supports a national team that is not their own. Are there any others? For readers that support a national team outside of their country do any of these apply, and if so how?