Are You A Football Turncoat?

Football - England v Slovakia International Friendly

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:

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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?
  6. 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?

31 thoughts on “Are You A Football Turncoat?”

  1. I root for the US, because my father came to the US to make me a citizen and then he became one. Easy enough.
    But I am also realistic, and if/when the USA goes out, I root for players I watch more than a country. So as a Villa fan, I would typically watch England (however the US playing England this year may affect this) and I watch Spain and I have to say I have a soft spot for Messi and Argentina.
    I am not gonna paint my face white and red if England is in and US is out, but I will root for them.
    And for the record, I am half Italian (sicilian) and half Iranian, so I have NO ties to England, Spain or Argentina.

  2. I’m a turncoat as you called it. I root for France for more than a decade and I have no French familial connection at all (or at least not that I know of). I picked up Les Bleus when I was still a kid, so I don’t know if I could call it a pro-choise. It became such later on though. Of course, I had my reasons back then as well, as I must admit that my childhood friends made quite an impact on why I would choose France above everyone else, well-known French flair should be mentioned here as well. Besides, I have a soft spot for France by far not just in football (though I regularly follow both EPL and Ligue 1), so it became quite natural for me to root for France and I consider Les Bleus as my team and cheer for them even when they play my home country’s NT.
    I’m sure, everyone have their reasons when they choose a team, would it be national team or a club, and I disagree that the place of birth should define your choise in the first place if you feal the other way.

  3. The country in which you hold citizenship is the country you should support. If you have dual citizenship, then you should support the country in which you reside. If you are not a citizen but you flee your country because it’s shit to go live and prosper in a better country, then you must support the country in which you have moved to. When I’m president, the above will be law.

    After your country exits the tournament or if they don’t make it, then you are allowed to support a team for the other reasons listed above.

  4. I have English and Welsh parents but was born and live in Australia. You couldn’t get me to support the *shudder* ‘Socceroos’ if my life depended on it. I’ve always supported England and I can still describe every moment of the Rugby 2003 WC final, so sweet a moment that it was. I always want Wales to do well but as my father was English, I think that heavily influenced where my loyalties lay.

    The penchant for giving Australian sporting teams absolutely ridiculous names also went a long way towards fostering my dislike.

  5. I’m a turncoat on several levels. Born and raised in United States, I will root for the USA, but I’m not fanatical about the USMNT. I’ve made two international trips in my life (not counting trips to Canada), having been to France and to Costa Rica. I rooted like crazy for Costa Rica to qualify, and I will take a rooting interest in France’s matches in South Africa. And, as a fan of the EPL, I will watch England’s games with greater interest than many other nations. Not sure what this makes me, but ‘turncoat’ is probably as good a word as any. Or perhaps ‘noncommittal’.

  6. I have a Dutch lineage, so that’s who I’m going to support at the World Cup. Secondary nations to root for would be the countries of Chelsea’s players…like Cote d’Ivoire for Drogba and Kalou, France for Malouda and Anelka, and so on. Except for Germany 😛

    1. Foot might not be broke, in a protective boot at the moment, Terry now hoping to be able to play in World cup and maybe FA cup this weekend.
      This is SKY’s latest update anyway

  7. I support the US first and for most, but since they don’t normally go very far I root for countries my ancestors came from which I have a nice selection consiting of England, Ireland, Sweden, and Poland.
    When the US play England I will NOT be rooting for the Red coats. After that game though I will probably root for them since the other three countries I turn to didn’t qualify or were screwed out of in Ireland’s case.

  8. nationalism is one of the many things that is wrong with this world. there is nothing wrong with supporting a country that is not yours. Actually, in many ways it shows how non-ape-like you are. Humans are one family, not separate clan-like groups at war.

  9. I root for England, where my parents are from, and the US. On that special day, I’ll root for England; because, England cares more and it would be so crushing to them if they lost; and, well, the US wins at so many things and, while I love my country, we are not the best winners.

    This past winter Olympics, I found myself rooting for Canada in the hockey final for same reason- they cared more.

  10. Firstly, I’ll root for the United States, England and Mexico. Second, I’ll follow other national teams that have players from my favorite club teams. Finally, I’ll root for the underdogs.

  11. Was actually having a conversation with a few Englishmen this past weekend at the pub about this. I wear an England badge on my jacket (born in US to US parents but grandparents were from Wales and Northwestern England) and one of them questioned my wearing of the badge. Explained it to them (and brought up watching various matches when I was younger) and they still pretty much called BS. I support the team I like, whos players I enjoy watching, and the team I want to watch win matches. Don’t see the problem.

  12. I’m an American citizen and US football supporter through and through, but I have to also admit I’ve always been a fan of The Red Fury and The 3 Lions. Spain has been somewhat of a second team for me to support due to my Grandmother being from Mallorca and Xabi Alonso has been my favorite player for awhile. Also, being a Liverpool supporter it makes my allegiance to Spain even larger, but also gives me a soft spot for England….gotta support Stevie G, Carra, Glen, and the EPL as a whole. I feel like these are legitimate reasons to support the teams I do, but I’m a Yank at heart.

  13. I’m Canadian. I’d root for Canada in the WC, but I can’t. I root for England because I’m of English decent. To a lesser degree, I root for England because Canada is still part of the Commonwealth with Queen E. as head of state…

    Regarding the proximity argument for EPL, I guess I’m not a supporter in that view, being an international fan (though I have an upcoming trip to my team’s pitch). You can call me whatever you want, really. I like the team I like (support?), and if you want to come up with another word, fine.

  14. “an inexplicable link between your emotions and your club’s results on a fixture list”

    I don’t buy into this mentality. Are “real supporters” supposed to cry or smash a window whenever their team loses, and rejoice-fully dance in the streets and buy ice cream every time it wins?

    Alternatively, what about supporters who, after their team is down 5-0, chant “we’re gonna win 6-5”? That’s clearly in opposition to the above mentality, yet we would all point out what great supporters they are to support their team through a bad game.

  15. I am American and support the U.S. team but am also realistic about their chances. After that my rooting choices go down to favorite players or countries I have visited and liked. Holland and Switzerland are my next rooting choices since I like those countries and Seedorf is one of my favorite players (I can only hope they actually play him) but another important factor that makes the World Cup so much fun is rooting against countries you don’t like. There are plenty of reasons to vote against certain countries (no offense to any of the supporters and I will even name the U.S. here) but you can hate the U.S. because they win at everything else, France because they cheated to get in, Brazil because they always win the World Cup, Italians because they dive all the time, etc.

  16. Born in Ireland but moved to the US as a kid. Unfortunately I have zero interest in the US team and my team is Ireland.

    This summer I will be going for England at the WC because they are the only team from Ireland & Britain competing.

    1. I would think being Irish would make you not want to root for England. The employees of the Irish Pub I go to to watch matches is 98% Irish and they all gave me shit when I came in wearing an England national team jersey. (I got it from my aunt who works at the Nike HQ as a gift because they didn’t have the new USA or Ireland jersey yet.)

  17. I know I should support the States, since I am American after all, but I find myself rooting much more for France–due largely to the fact that my wife is French and we will be living there within the next two years. I’ll probably cheer on the US whenever they play a game but I just don’t feel very connected to the team, partly because I don’t even know that much about the team or most of the players on the squad. (save for the ones that have made a name in the Premier League)

  18. Thanks for the article. I might take one of these in consideration since I can’t find a single reason to watch WC2010.

  19. I think everyone should just support England, especially if your own national team is not there. Feel the passion and pride you get when you have the three lions on your chest.

  20. First and foremost, I will cheer for the USMNT passionately. I was born and raised here; I wouldn’t have it any other way. I won’t judge anyone for supporting a nation other than their birth country, but I honestly can’t understand the motive behind that (unless of course you have familial ties). I watch the World Cup to support my country. The great football is just a bonus.

    Secondly, whenever we happen to go out (not deluding myself about our chances here), I’ll root for Spain. Why? It’s a mixture of some of the reasons mentioned above, I suppose. They have my favorite player (Torres), great depth, and a beautiful style of play. I’m not tremendously attached to them though; trust me, I was absolutely ecstatic after the USMNT beat them 2-0 in Confed Cup ’09.

    I’m a big follower of EPL. I’m rather indifferent to England’s national team however. I have a certain fondness for Stevie G and Glen Johnson due to club ties obviously, but that’s about it. As you’ve stated, the leagues are becoming increasingly international; there’s barely any English left in the English Premier League. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, just the way it is. But yeah, I feel like league-country ties are tenuous at best.

  21. People continue to get the WRONG reasons for people being annoyed at Yank gloryhunters

    They claim that we feel that unless you are FROM that area, you can’t be a fan….NO, nobody is saying that. What we are saying is that if you have NEVER been to a game, you don’t get the special aspect of a team and its history AND YES THAT IS A HUGE DEAL

    How exactly can you be a fan if you have never been to the city? Stadium? Rivals game? I just….are people kidding themselves?

    It is such a joke that I am not sure where to begin

    1. Due to issues such as money and convenience, my family cannot afford to travel to England in the near future. I have never seen a Liverpool game in my life. Clearly, I’m not an actual fan even though I watch EPL religiously and truly love my club. My apologies.

      Sarcasm aside, guess what? Not everyone has the opportunity to see live games. Your comment doesn’t make me any less of a fan. It just makes you a prick, really.

  22. Born in the US but never liked the USA’s playing style however, I can’t bring myself to ever root against them or truely pull for another team in the world cup. Ill be pulling for the US and always will. I think you gotta pull for the team of the nation you’re born in unless you’re born into a nation like Canada that dosn’t ever qualify for the World cup.
    When the US isn’t playing (Euro cup or qualifying) I tend to pull for Ireland (my great-grandparents are Irish immigrants that landed in NY) or an “underdog”.
    Most often my loyalty will lay with a couple players I’m a fan of or a playing style I find visually attractive, so I’ll pull for their respective teams. I liked teams like Nigeria(underdogs with a lot of raw talent), Argentina(Batistuta), Dutch (Bergkamp), and England (Gasigone, Shearer,Seamen, Neville) in the early-mid 90’s. I liked Brazil(beautiful playing style- Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos), France (only because of Zidane, I hate rest of team and still do), Ireland, etc in the late 90’s early 2000’s.

  23. I m born and i lived in Usa my whole life and i support England and no1 else in the Worldcup no matter what the situation..I have english friends who see nothing wrong with this reason being if it wasnt for England and the Epl i would never have started or continued watching soccer..If it was for america I would never like soccer because over the last decade the leagues are horrible here and its not mainstream enough that if you dont find it on your own , you ll never find it.. so whatever

  24. I don’t know crap about soccer, so I feel free to watch and root for whomever I want- at least for now. For what it’s worth, I’ll likely root for the US and Nigeria (birthplace/home and ancestry, respectively) in the WC; after those teams are out, I’ll likely just watch some of the other matches to learn more about the sport.

    On a side note, I visited Lagos, Nigeria and I couldn’t find a Super Eagles shirt anywhere, but there were sporting goods shops selling soccer shirts of every other team imaginable. That city was full of turncoats 😀

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