Rooting for international teams: unpatriotic?

Category:  Opinions
Thursday, October 4th, 2018 at 9:06 AM

Sports have always been a big part of my life ever since the first grade. I’ve played soccer for 12 years, and I’ve loved hockey since middle school. In my time of being a loving sports fan, I’ve received a plethora of insults. It comes with the territory when you’re a Washington Capitals fan in Penguins territory, but the one thing I’ve never understood is the insults that imply that I’m unpatriotic or un-American when I don’t support the U.S. in the World Cup or the Olympics.

I grew up watching soccer and my favorite teams are Manchester United and Real Madrid; I’ve loved their players for years and few of them are American. When the World Cup comes around, I tend to lean toward teams that have players I know, which means that I usually support Spain and have Belgium as my backup. 

With hockey, I never really support a single team internationally, I just like to watch the sport, but when pressed I find myself supporting Russia or Canada in the Hockey World Cup or the Olympics. Canada because of how many players there are in the NHL, and Russia because my favorite player is Alexander Ovechkin.  

My question is, though,  if you’re not supposed to blindly support anyone whether it be leader or government, why am I unpatriotic for liking teams that aren’t the U.S.? 

Why is it an issue if  I support a team full of my favorites, in an international sporting event, whether it be Spain in soccer or Russia or Canada in hockey? 

Why am I supposed to support a team when I, someone obsessed with sports, can barely identify anyone on the team?

To be fair, I don’t watch much Major League Soccer (MLS). It just doesn’t have the draw that attracts me to La Liga or the Premier League. However, I try to keep up to date on the major news from the MLS. It’s hard to throw my support at a team, the U.S., when I recognize one or two players opposed to the teams on which I recognize most, if not all of their lineup. 

The Premier League has three American players that have played more than one match. La Liga, while they’re going to play games in North America, only has only one American in their league. 

How is it unpatriotic to make an informed decision on who I support in the land of the free?

I understand sports have always been political in some way or another, especially in today’s sports world — with a hyper-polarized NFL, for example. However, I think that the only politics that should matter are the ones the players make known: for example when Colin Kaepernick kneeled to draw attention to police brutality. I think that should be the only time we follow politics in sports. When it’s an athlete’s way to get their voice out there, I follow, but who I support in sports shouldn’t be political. 

I’m more prone to see and like those sports that aren’t American — and thus like players who are not from the U.S. So why does that make me unpatriotic? 

Maybe in the future when hockey and soccer are more popular in America — and have more American players, then I’ll be able to identify with and support the U.S. Until then? Rock on Canada and Russia. 

Erica Burkholder can be reached at

Tags: voices, opinions

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