I was originally going to make my last post about 3 new forms of anti-immigrant lunacy, but then decided this one deserved a post of its own — specially after I began researching how stupid the anti-immigrant lunacy was in this case. Here is another gem from the Center for Immigration Slandering, this time from David Seminara complaining about there being not enough immigrants in the U.S. Soccer Men’s National Team (USMNT). The article pretends to be about soccer, but it really is about immigrants rooting for their home countries, rather thanÂ the U.S. team:
None of the foreign born players in the U.S. player pool are regular starters, recent immigrants, or come from countries they could easily represent at the international level.
Make no mistake: there are immigrants, and the children of immigrants that are willingly choosing to play for the U.S., but shouldn’t immigration be helping our national soccer team much more than it has? The fact that our national team sometimes gets booed while competing on its own soil probably doesn’t do much to help recruit immigrants to play for the U.S. side.
Woah, passive aggressive! The writer begins his argument by noting that only 5% of players representing the U.S. are immigrants, and notes that the number is low compared to the overall population of immigrants in the country (around 9%). Then his diatribe turns to immigrant communities that root for their native countries, rather than their adopted one when it comes to World Cup Qualifiers, etc. In short, Seminara is commenting on two different factors here: the amount of foreign-born players and the rooting allegiances of recent immigrants. Both have everything to do with FIFA soccer and nothing to do with what is best for the U.S. in terms of immigration policy.
The first one is the so-called “paucity of foreign-born players” in the USMNT, or the fact that they are not starters. (You got called out, Mastroeni!). This paucity might seem true when comparing overall population of immigrants to the ratio of foreign-born players in the team. But using this set of assumptions is flatly wrong, and the two numbers have little to do with each other. FIFA discourages players from transferring to other countries and does not tolerate special citizenship grants for skilled players, so you can mostly leave out “recent immigrants” from the argument. (This is different than basketball for example, where Americans Chris Kaman and Becky Hammon have represented Germany and Russia, respectively – even though Hammon has no blood connection to Russia!) In most countries, even as much as one foreign-born player would be an anomaly. Aside for rooting for the U.S. (specially when they play against Mexico), I am a fan of Argentina and cannot remember a single foreign-born player ever. The fact that the US has three (3!) foreign-born players is huge, and part of the history of the team itself. I doubt CIS knows who Tab Ramos (pictured) is, but his induction class to the US National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2005 consisted of 9 players, 7 of whom were immigrants from Norway, Scotland, Uruguay, and Spain. Ramos is one of the only players in U.S. Soccer history to play in three world cups (1990, 1994, 1998) and he was the first player ever signed to Major League Soccer. He came to the U.S. with his parents when he was 11 — you know, like a DREAM Act student.
Saying that not enough immigrants help the team is an absolutely hypocritical argument for CIS to make – considering how much they have fought against the pro-immigrant reforms that would aid the USMNT’s feeder system. They oppose most forms of immigration, which indirectly limits how cost-effective it is for teams to bring players from abroad. And they have worked to deny access to higher education to undocumented immigrants. US Soccer does not have a strong amateur system, so most of its players start their careers in the college ranks. If immigrants can’t get to college, how could they even succeed in college sports and then represent the country?
Seminara’s other point is about how immigrants root for other countries more than the U.S. Why is this so? For Seminara it is “an issue of assimilation, or lack thereof in a post-American society”. Now Mr. Seminara, please know that immigrants are assimilating because this blog is written in English and we pay taxes. If you want to talk soccer, you have to understand soccer. Bill Simmons, the Sports Guy on ESPN, recently got to understand soccer in Mexico:
On the day of last week’s World Cup qualifier between the United States and Mexico, a Mexico City newspaper polled citizens asking if they felt the country’s national pride was at stake. Seventy-six percent said yes.
Think about that for a second. Americans are obsessed with sports. We currently sustain four major professional sports leagues, as well as NASCAR, the MLS, MILS, the WNBA, every conceivable NCAA sport, dozens of golf and tennis events, boxing and UFC cards, the WWE and even the Little League World Series. Can you remember a sporting event making us feel as if our national pride was at stake? Me neither.
Take all the sports we care about here, mix that passion together, condense it into one mega-sport, and you’d have soccer in Mexico.
And that’s what carries over to later generations of Latinos in this country. I have met staunch Hispanic Republicans that decry progressivism and big government, but wear the colors of El Tri when the World Cup comes around. And yes they are legal. Some are U.S. citizens.
There are exceptions and they matter. I asked my buddy Josue what he thought of the CIS article. He laughed for about twenty minutes. He is a member of the U.S. Soccer Official Supporters Club, which has brought him certain perks such as meeting with the team before a recent game. He lives in LA, but has traveled all over to watch the team play. Most recently, he was in Utah rooting for the Stars and Stripes in a World Cup qualifying game.Â Josue is also the son of former undocumented immigrants who came from El Salvador escaping the Civil War in the 1980s. On a whim, he pointed to me that USMNT starters such as Tim Howard, Carlos Bocanegra, Oguchi Onyewu, Landon Donovan, Ricardo Clark, and Jonathan Bornstein all have at least one parent who is an immigrant.
Latinos root for the U.S., specially when they come from crappy soccer countries like El Salvador (Zing!). Spanish TV broadcasts most games and markets the team as “El Equipo de Todos” (Everybody’s Team), to coalesce its nationally-diverse audience behind these lovable underdogs. In this must-watch video, you can see that the U.S. Soccer Federation itself it trying to beef-up its player development among Latino and immigrant communities, and address some of the structural problems that deter low-income communities from becoming talent pools for the USMNT.
Immigration has strengthened the knowledge, passion and dedicationÂ to the game that hasÂ flourished in the last decade within the US. We can have passive aggressiveness and rhetorical loopholes, CIS. Or we can have sensible conversations about immigrants and what they contribute to our communities, industries, development, and yes – soccer.