World Cup Support Shows Complicated Asian American Identity

June 29, 2010

I’m not really what you call a “sports person.” I can’t tell the difference between a hockey run and a basketball goal, and have trouble distinguishing between offense and defense.

Took me a while to notice, but apparently there is some sort of worldwide soccer match going on. I must admit it was Twitter that cued me in -- all those little colorful flags next to the country name hash tags piqued my curiosity. So for all you sports fans out there: please keep my sports-obliviousness in mind for the remainder of this blog post. I literally have no idea what I’m talking about when it comes to sports.

But cheering, now, that’s a different matter. I have some experience with this. Tell me which team you want me to go nuts for, and by golly, I will do it. I don’t pretend to be a true sports fan; I’m in it for the yelling. I’m a pretty enthusiastic person and will basically take on any opportunity that will let me flail my arms and scream my little heart out. An equal opportunity cheerer, if you will.

It’s interesting to take note of the twisty allegiances that second- and third-generation Americans feel for their countries of ethnicity when it comes to World Cup team support. There’s a powerful sense of “my country versus… my other country.” It’s a complicated relationship.

This Facebook posting by one of my best friends sums it up nicely: “My brother texted me the other day while I was at work: ‘we're up 1-0!!!’ and I had to ask him who he meant by ‘we’....Korea or US? And which am I really, really rooting for?” It’s a good question, but one without any obvious answer.

It’s worth keeping in mind that so-called hyphenated-Americans are not the only people who root for countries other than the US. Maybe you will root for Ghana because you studied abroad there. Or maybe you’ll root for Greece because your grandpa’s from there. This is why I find it a bit uncomfortable when people call immigrants who hold on to their nationalities as being “un-American.” Unlike the majority of other nations, we are a country made up of immigrants. We’re proud of where we came from, and where we are now. Maybe having multiple allegiances is a very American quality to possess.

As we make our way through the third week of the World Cup, this is what I want to know: whom are you rooting for and why? If you consider yourself a hyphenated American, do you root for the hyphen or do you root for the American -- or both? Do you think it’s un-American to root for a country other than the US?




Plenty of European Americans (even those who are 5th+ generation American) openly root for their Euro country during World Cup or Olympic matches, even to win over America.  For some reason Asians get targeted more and we are also more conscious of being seen as unpatriotic (or untrustworthy) more than European American counterparts, going all the back to WWII and before that, when double standards of treatment existed toward European Americans and Asian Americans (like WWII internment camps, or early 20th century California miner taxes).

First, I'm like Victoria in saying, "Soccer?  World Cup?  Huh." Second, if I do happen to see any of the matches, I find myself rooting for the team with the hottest players.  It's true. If neither of the teams look all that hot, then I'll root for the team who seem to be the best sports.  You know, the ones who don't scream or throw fits or play dirty. Seriously, that's what I think sports should be about--positive values like good sportmanship, dedication, hard work, and eamwork.  Not about winning at any cost or taking your opponents down or treating sports as more important than anything else.  Which country does this?  It seems to vary from year to year, and even game to game. That said, I think Hidetoshi Nakata is awesome, especially since he's taking part in the Special Olympics Unity Cup game on July 3rd.
Interesting...another question, how do you feel about this little article from the Huffington post that said North Korea paid Chinese actors to root for them?   Weird, right?
I've always thought of myself as American, with a Korean background. Nothing to be ashamed of, of course. In fact, I am very proud of my asian-ness. But I like the fact that being a second generation asian makes me...more American, in a sense. But no less Korean.  I was sitting at Borders two days ago, when I overheard a conversation between two men: 1:"Hey, sorry to hear about Italy, man."  2:"Yeah, dude. I guess I should root for the U.S. now. Seeing as how I live here." And I realized this was not me at all. I wanted to root for the U.S. And I wanted to root for Korea. It's not like those dumb Ford commercials, where they act like if you don't buy their cars, you're un-American. For me, being a hyphen american, even with all its disadvantages, has one major advantage: I can have my cake, and eat it too. I get the best of both worlds. I can root for both teams.  And yes, I do realize that I write this after both teams have dropped out. And yes, I realize that I avoided the question of which I would choose if they were up against each other. Let's cross that bridge when we get there. 
This is a dilema for Americans of many ethnicities, though Korean-Americans surely have the best cheering parties 합동응원. Every Italian-American wants to see Italy beat Brazil... then see the US beat Germany.... and quietly hope Italy and the US don't meet in the same match. 
THIS IS SO GOOD!!! :D :D an equal opportunity cheerer! yay! for the hyphenated asians who didn't have their country (i.e. chinese or taiwan) play, i chose to go with other asians. As much as i DON'T support kim jung il, I'm okay with cheering at little asian players (that may or may not die if they lose ;_;) just because they've got that asian thing goin on. I watched the Japan game, and I even have a Dae Han Min Guk! shirt that I willfully made with my over-spirited korean friends. Korean fans are insane, btw. and i cheered for USA! they were such a strong-hearted team! so many comebacks and unfair calls! i like cheering. yay, things!!!