There are some excellent scribes who write about Argentine Soccer. Sam Kelly. Dan Colasimone. Ed Malyon. Most of them live in Buenos Aires, whereas my own tenure there was an all too brief six months (several years ago). However, there’s just one problem: none of the aforementioned writers are pricks.
It is with great trepidation and terror that I type this article. My hands tremble. My pulse quickens. Why? Because the sky is falling. A totally unexpected event has entered the radar..A dot. A speck. A point. A hole that threatens to spread and engulf the entire universe.
The USMNT announced the home stadium locations for the remaining World Cup qualifiers. The selected locations are Seattle, Salt Lake, Kansas City, and Columbus. I’m not going to name names, but lots of folks were happy with the selection for a simple reason: these cities don’t have as sizable a Latino population as other places, and thus the US could “enjoy a true home field advantage.” The insinuation, based on past games, is that a game in Florida or California would sell out a larger venue, but attract first or second-generation Latinos with split loyalties who don’t support the Red, White, & Blue. I ask – is that true? And, even if so, is that a good idea in the big picture of things?
Ever since Suarez-Evra gate, I’ve grappled with the issue of racism and soccer. Of course, the larger problem is getting a firm grip on “racism.” If we define racism as irrational prejudices – preferring one race to another – then we get stuck in a rut as to solutions. Affirmative action to remedy historical injustice requires such preferences. More recently, folks have said that “race matters” and embraced minority identities and cultures as adding value. However, this also walks a slippery slope – if a minority group possess a culture that adds value, then can’t that same culture contain unsavory elements that decrease value? Uh oh.
In the world of soccer, some clubs (private business entities) have embraced identities based on a concept similar to race: nationality. This is even trickier. What’s the difference between nativism and national pride? Can you lift yourself up without putting others down? More recently, the 21st centuries’ wave of immigration tossed a wrench in the mono-national identity wrench.
I know what you’re thinking. Or, rather, the things you are thinking. First, incredulity. The above headline can’t possibly be true. You like to think yourself knowledgeable about soccer. You watch several games a week. You have a few clubs you follow from Western Europe. You even bought a scarf at a stadium the one time you were backpacking through Spain. You put a fiver on a game now and then. You have a general sense of which teams are good, which players are good. Nothing catches you off guard.
Tactics. Injuries. Luck. I tried to make sense of the US loss to Jamaica in Kingston, but this was the best I could come up with. I promise no Beach Boys if the US advances on the last game away to Antigua.
As many of you suspect, I am both a soccer hipster and a eurosnob. Thus, the European Championships have ended and I am going on summer break. No transfer rumors. No MLS mid-summer regular season. No US beating up on countries with a fraction of a fraction of our GDP. I will keep an eye on all these things, but no blogging.