The club and country aspect to soccer is unique. A soccer fan may be asked if he/she prioritizes rooting for a club team or a national team. That question is ludicrous in just about every other sport. With the FIBA World Championship, basketball is the closest to soccer when it comes to having an international game that I know of, but I have never heard the above question asked to NBA fans. I can’t even fathom a Jazz fan that would rather have Team USA win the FIBA World Championship, or a gold medal in the Olympics, than have the Jazz win an NBA title. I’m sure there are other sports around the world where people might root for country over club, like cricket, rugby, or maybe hockey north of the border— but there is nothing like a national team in soccer, and more specifically, World Cup soccer.
The importance of the international aspect of soccer can often cause a dilemma with fans. A great example of this, for me, was Landon Donovan. Landon was recently left off the US National Team roster, meaning he will not be playing in the 2014 World Cup. For most of my soccer fan life, when Landon wasn’t playing for arguably the most hated team in MLS, the LA Galaxy, he was the best player on my beloved USMNT.
I tend to switch immediately to loving and rooting for every player on the USMNT during international games. This meant rooting for Donovan to dominate games and lead our national team to victory, and then a few days later going back to hoping he and his club team would lose in embarrassing and agonizing ways.
No matter my mixed feelings on Landon Donovan, he will always be a part of one of my favorite sports memories.
I watched the 2010 World Cup as a newlywed in our cramped 425 square foot apartment in downtown Salt Lake. When it looked like Team USA would tie Algeria, and not make it past group play—this happened in the 91st minute:
“GO GO USA!”
I yelled. I jumped off the couch. I lost control of my limbs while celebrating, and probably shouted some choice words in triumph, all the while bothering my easily-annoyed upstairs neighbor. Even if you, dear reader, hate soccer, you still have to appreciate the drama of this moment, or I would argue that you don’t actually like sports.
As a friend so kindly pointed out to me while discussing Donovan being left off the USMNT roster, this Donovan moment in the 2009 MLS Cup final between RSL and the LA Galaxy was pretty great too:
Such is the life of a soccer fan.