Now that World Cup 2018 is underway in Russia, soccer fans around the globe will be fixated on the spectacle, especially those of participating nations.
United States fans have looked forward to seeing the Red, White, and Blue in the competition for most of our lives. After the 1950 World Cup, in which the US upset England in group play 1–0, the Americans were actually absent from the tournament until 1990. The US had participated in every World Cup since then until, of course, well...okay, this one.
So, while we’re viewing the games, should New England Revolution fans be rooting for another nation’s team? Most of us can trace our lineage back to our roots in other countries, so there‘s a connection for us if our ancestors’ nations of origin are in the competition. There are other options, as well, for selecting a rooting interest. Let‘s take a look.
Revolution Players and Staff:
With a diverse roster and staff, the Revs have numerous international connections. Many players and coaches have a heritage outside of the United States:
Colombia - Luis Caicedo; Juan Agudelo
France - Claude Dielna, Wilfried Zahibo
Japan - Zach Herivaux
Uruguay - Diego Fagundez
Sweden - Gabriel Somi
Argentina - Marcelo Neveleff (asst coach)
Spain - Ruben Garcia (asst coach)
Peru - Andrew Farrell spent his formative years here until age 15
If the US can’t be there, maybe we can root for the native lands of our domestic league’s players, the majority of whom are from our confederation‘s three representatives. It’d be great for MLS players to show well on a global stage. That can only help our league.
Mexico - Carlos Vela (LAFC); Giovani dos Santos (Galaxy); Jonathan dos Santos (Galaxy).
Panama - Adolpho Machado (Dynamo); Fidel Escobar (NYRB); Michael Murillo (NYRB): Harold Cummings (Quakes); Anibal Godoy (Quakes); Roman Torres (Sounders);
Costa Rica - Marco Urena (LAFC); Francisco Calvo (Minnesota United); Rodney Wallace (NYCFC); David Guzman (Timbers); Kendall Waston (Whitecaps)
New England’s Immigrant Roots
The Irish, Italians, and Greeks have prominent representation in our region, but Ireland, Italy, and Greece missed this year’s World Cup. There are others, though, worth our notice.
With a little help from our friends at the New England Historical Society, let’s look at the other prominent immigrant groups that helped build the six-state region into what it is today. Some of us can probably claim one or more of these nationalities as our own, so why not pull for those nations in the World Cup?
England - Where it all started for “New” England. The Brits gave us a region and a nation (okay, so maybe we took it). But who can forget their gifted goal to the US in the 2010 World Cup?
Portugal - There‘s been a strong Portuguese influence in New England for over 100 years. Two great waves of immigration gave Southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island the densest concentration of people with ancestry from Portugal. In fact, Revolution matches are actually carried on WMVX Radio 1570 AM Nossa Radio USA in Portuguese.
Remember Jermaine Jones‘ wonder goal against Portugal in the 2014 World Cup? Unfortunately for US fans, it was later canceled out by this goal off a brilliant cross from Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo.
Poland - Polish immigrants have formed the fabric and culture of New England society for nearly 150 years. Starting in the Revolutionary War when Tadeusz Kosciuszko and Kazimierz Pulaski became military heroes for a freedom-seeking people, the Poles have contributed mightily to the region‘s spirit and industry.
Today, Massachusetts and Connecticut rank 10th and 11th in total population of people with Polish ancestry. Connecticut has the third densest population of Polish-Americans in the country, with 8.85 percent, behind Wisconsin and Michigan.
On the European soccer stage, Polish striker Robert Lewandowski has quietly made a name for himself, operating largely in the shadow of guys named Messi and Ronaldo. He once scored five goals in nine minutes for Bayern in 2015.
France - French influence in Canada is well-known, but much of New England also has a marked French presence. By 1990, Massachusetts had the highest number of Franco-Americans in the United States, and nearly half of all in New England. New Hampshire ranked fifth, Connecticut sixth and Maine eighth.
France won their only World Cup in 1998, a 3-0 victory over Brazil which featured two Zinedine Zidane goals in a surprising romp over Ronaldo and company. It was also the last time France hosted the event.
Sweden - OK, I’ll admit this one’s a stretch. Less well-known and certainly less influential is a small Swedish influence in Maine. In 1870, a little colony of handpicked Swedish farmers, propelled by crop failures and the difficulty of surviving on tiny plots of farmland, made a month-long journey from Gothenburg to the primeval wilds of northeastern Maine. Their descendants still live in the area known as New Sweden, and still cook Swedish meatballs and perform Swedish folk dances.
Although he’s now retired from international football, Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored one of the most incredible goals you’ll ever see. The commentary is priceless.
Others - Not to be ignored are the more recent immigrant groups and the multitude of nationalities located primarily in the cities and large towns of New England. From Mexico to Brazil, many countries with national teams in this World Cup are well represented throughout the region.
Nations Viewed Favorably by Americans
Taking a broader perspective, the New York Times revealed in a 2017 survey those countries viewed by Americans to be our strongest allies. Maybe we can cheer on one or more of our friends in the World Cup? Here are some nations from that survey whose teams are in the tournament:
Australia England France Sweden Germany Switzerland Denmark Spain Iceland Japan Poland Brazil Portugal South Korea Costa Rica Panama
There are various rationales we can use to determine which nation or nations can attract our support in this international competition. For me, Poland gets most of my backing as the homeland of my paternal grandparents. However, for various reasons, I’ll also be pulling for Nigeria (close friend), Germany (home for three years), and Peru (friend). I’d also love to see our regional neighbors Panama and Costa Rica (okay, and even Mexico) do well. Oh yeah, I love underdogs, so Iceland gets some love here, too.
Whom will you root for in the 2018 World Cup? Why? Feel free to share your thoughts in the Comments section below!