American-Italian

I was going to write about Paul Pogba this week but I’ve read so much about him that I’m bored of my own idea so for posterity here’s a thing I posted on my non-soccer tumblr months ago when Giuseppe Rossi was talking about coming back to America to play in MLS.

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There’s been an argument raging over on the MLS subreddit about Giuseppe Rossi talking about how he’d like to “come home” to play, and presumably finish his career in America. This bit of news isn’t going over especially well with people who still feel burned about the Teaneck, New Jersey-born Rossi’s choice to play for Italy at international level.

First, some information on Rossi’s Italian credentials. A child of Italian immigrants Giuseppe moved from New Jersey to Parma when he was 12 years old where he entered the youth set up. He remained there until joining Manchester United aged 17 where was then loaned out to Newcastle and then back to Parma representing Italy at every youth level along the way including during the 2008 Olympics where he was top scorer. He finally found a home in Spain with Villarreal which earned him a place in the Italy senior team for which he has made 30 appearances scoring 7 goals and has even once worn the captains armband.

Also, his name is Giuseppe Rossi. It is safe to say he has always been pretty Italian.

But when I made the point about his name, someone on reddit responded with this quote from Rossi:

“How can I explain it? The TV I watch, the websites I visit, the music I like — it’s all from America. But Italian soccer is what I grew up watching, and Italy is where I grew up as a player. Off the field, I have always felt American. On the field, I’ve always felt Italian.”

This has been called a cop out, but I have no issue with it. Look how many American players were given a choice between the USA and the country they were born in.

Jermaine Jones was born in Germany to an American father but spent just about his entire life there and has a German accent and yet we have no problem with him choosing represent the United States only after it was made clear to him that he wasn’t good enough to cut it at senior level for Germany.

Rossi could have gone the same way, but the key difference is that Rossi is good enough for Italy.

People who hate Giuseppe Rossi hate him because he’s good, not because he’s a “traitor.” If he were a lesser player people wouldn’t be bothered. No one is upset with the countless players that went on to represent the homelands of parents or grandparents because that was their only way to play international football.

Had Giuseppe Rossi chosen to play for the US he would have been a massive star. His peak coinciding with the 2010 World Cup would have meant we had a young, good looking playmaker whose talent put him head and shoulders above anyone else on the team. He would have been the face of American soccer and even now, still only 28, he’d be considered the best player we ever had.

But he didn’t.

And now he may want to come to MLS. So maybe he didn’t take the path we wanted for him. Maybe his desire to “come home” is more a result of his bad luck with knee injuries rather than a craving to eat more pork roll, but Giuseppe Rossi coming to MLS would only strengthen the league and further legitimize this it as a place for star players who still have a lot to give rather than a retirement league for players looking for one last payday.

It’s not what American soccer fans wanted, but they know as well as anyone, you take what you can get.

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