Sports Fan – TCK Style

As I watched the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs battle it out for the NBA championship and the Italian soccer team work its way through the Confederations Cup, I realized that even with sports I display signs of being a third culture kid.

As a kid, basketball was the only sport I really watched because we lived in the U.S. at the time and my dad was a huge Chicago Bulls fan. He also loved soccer, but it was harder to find soccer games on television in the U.S. back then. Basketball was easily available and the Chicago Bulls were the team to beat. I have very fond memories from watching those games and to this day whenever I see a basketball game on t.v. I always think of watching the Bulls games with my dad. I know there will always be arguments over Michael Jordan and which players today may have surpassed him, but I will always be a true MJ fan – those years of watching the Bulls can’t erase that. I was always a huge Scottie Pippen fan too… Let’s just say that, in my opinion, no team today will ever match up to the Phil Jackson-Michael Jordan-Scottie Pippen era Bulls team. We would watch those games, often with a bowl of popcorn, waiting for the introduction (“And now…YOUR CHICAGO BULLS!”), cheering on our team and calming down our dad too. When Michael Jordan came back to basketball after his odd stint at baseball, and the Bulls soared again to the top, it was a glorious time! Those memories always bring a smile to my face, and I’ve thought about them a lot since moving back to the U.S. a couple of years ago…

But after spending years in the States and following basketball, we moved to Mexico and that’s when soccer entered my life. Suddenly soccer was not only easily available on t.v., it was a much revered sport in that part of the world. And once I started watching it, I loved it, and I proudly cheered on the Mexican soccer team. I even met the coach of their team when he came to visit our school. I was a little young to fully appreciate that encounter, but I was old enough to know how cool it was and to remember it to this day. We stood in a line on one of the fields at school, we listened to him talk, and then we could ask for autographs… Sadly, I don’t know where that autograph ended up, but at least I still have the fun memory.

Although Mexico was my first taste of soccer, I was still young and mostly enjoyed watching it with my dad, without really understanding the game or the excitement. But many years later, after hopping to a couple more countries in between, we ended up in France and that is where the true love affair with soccer began. In Europe, soccer is also very big and I quickly became a huge supporter of the French team. I loudly chanted “Allez les Bleus!” and proudly wore my Zidane t-shirt. For several years they were my team – I cheered them on, I defended them and celebrated when they won. Then a few things happened which slowly caused my allegiance to waiver – my favorite players began to retire, and I met my husband. Let me present the situation: my husband is Italian and he is a huge soccer fan. So naturally, we argued over which team was better and if they played against each other – like they did at a World Cup final (!!) – there was a lot of trans-Alpine rivalry! But then the structure of both teams began to change: the French players I adored left, and the Italian players I so disliked left as well. And yes, I slowly but surely fell in love with the Italian team. I am now an avid supporter of the Azzurri – yelling at the t.v. when unfair calls are made, shouting at them to get their act together, stressing at the edge of my chair when it’s a close game and whooping madly when they score. It’s a deep love now, made stronger by a couple of things. Firstly, we met one of the main players on a beach in Italy, with his lovely wife and adorable kid and he was so nice, despite us ‘interrupting’ his vacation to tell him how great it was to watch him play. And secondly, because of my unwavering, unfaltering adoration for their goalie Buffon and their ‘maestro’ Pirlo. Sadly, there is a very real possibility of them both retiring after next year’s world cup… Here’s hoping they have a beautiful and successful final year.

Throughout the years living in several countries, we cheered on many different teams and we tried a wide variety of sports too. We learned about sports we never knew existed (netball, for example) and until this day we’ll support the national teams/athletes of the different countries we lived in. I have cheered Mexico on with “GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL”!!!; I have worn green and gold for the Australian athletes; I have painted my nails red, white and blue or red, white and green for the French and Italian teams; I have proudly displayed my cedar and “I love Lebanon” t-shirt… During the Olympics we almost always have someone to cheer for in each sport, and we just love seeing the joy of whoever wins. Sometimes it might be tough to choose who to support when two of “our” countries are competing, but usually it’s just wonderful to have so many nations we know and love. Even in sports this mixture of cultures and countries is so important, and supporting those different teams is just another byproduct of being a TCK. Moving back to the U.S. reminded me of this yet again as I found myself watching sports that were part of my childhood, all while watching sports that I came to love much older. Going from expat to repat has brought all sorts of lessons and revelations, even in sports.

Right now you’ll have to excuse me – I have to go cheer on Italy in the hopes that they beat Spain in the semifinal of the Confederations Cup…