A Soccer Fan of Divided Loyalities

Uh oh! What do I do now?!

I am faced with a conundrum that took more than 30 years to develop.

I am a soccer fan, not only because I played the sport from a very young age, but because as a native Argentine, the religion of soccer is ingrained in my DNA.

We worship at the altar of our favorite professional clubs, but we all set aside our religious sects to venerate the national team.

This worship is not unique to Argentina or Latin America. The fervor of rooting patriotically is in the fabric of every country.

I experienced this firsthand when in 1986 on a June afternoon I made my way to the heart of the downtown district of Buenos Aires.

Halfway around the world in Mexico City, my heroes of the Argentine National Team were about to face Germany in the final game of the FIFA World Cup.

When the final whistle blew, Argentina won 3-2 and I found myself in a large, pulsing living organism for a spontaneous celebration I would never forget. I later found out that the number of fans that converged around me and the giant screens reached more than 200,000.

Even as a naturalized United States citizen I still remained the rabid Argentina soccer fan that my blood cells are stamped with.

Living in a country that did not care for soccer at a league level and even less at a national team level, I had no worries of ever having my love for a foreign nation conflict with my adopted one.

That started to change, however, in the early 90s.

Soccer came to this nation slowly and then suddenly in 1994, the United States hosted the ultimate soccer tournament, the World Cup.

Historically, the U.S. always fielded a weak team, a mere speed bump for the major soccer powers on their way to the top prize.

In that World Cup though, the U.S. Men’s National Team not only held its own, but shocked many by upsetting an overconfident Colombia.

The U.S. team did not get much further and over the next few years its level of play peaked in 2002 by reaching a quarterfinal in the World Cup.

But in the last few years, the team has started to show a level of play that, although still not at the level of historically strong soccer nations, was starting to draw some attention.

Through all this, I was and am a strong supporter of the USA National Team. Fast forward to now.

Once again the USA is hosting a major FIFA tournament. It’s the oldest international competition and it is called La Copa America.

I again have been rabidly following both nations. Now I have my kids and wife joining me at every game, cheering my birth nation, Argentina, and their birth nation, the United States.

Now the conundrum: For the first time in their history, Argentina and the U.S. will match up in a major tournament and at a very high stage, the semifinal game of the Copa America 2016.

I have the conflict of cheering for or against one of the two nations that mean so much to me.

On Tuesday night I will be rooting hard for the nation I grew up rooting for all the while knowing that if my adopted nation pulls off the greatest soccer upset in history, I will not be disappointed.

I will still have the fervor and sincerest desire to see them advance and win it all.

ARGENTINA! ! !  USA! ! ! !

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