June 24, 2010

The Melting Pot

The World Cup decides the best in the world in soccer, but the “world” in World Cup has another meaning. Players, no matter what team they are on, are from all over the world.

On the U.S. team, there are a number of players who are either immigrants themselves or whose parents are immigrants. Any of them, at least in theory, could have chosen to represent the country of their birth or the country of their parents.

Benny Feilhaber is Brazilian. His grandparents fled Austria for Brazil when Hitler’s Germany took over. His family migrated again, to California, when he was six years old. Through his grandparents, he was able to obtain an Austrian passport in order to play for a time for a German team.

Stuart Holden is from Scotland, and came to the U.S. when he was 10. He gained his citizenship four years ago.

Jose Torres, a Texan of Mexican descent, gave up a chance to play in the Olympics on the U.S. team in order to play with the Pachuca, Mexico, club team. He is now back with the U.S. team in South Africa.

Goalkeeper Tim Howard (who was key to keeping England to one goal in the opening game for the U.S.) could theoretically have represented Hungary, the country of his mother’s birth.

The parents of Oguchi Onyewu came to the U.S. from Nigeria, and his father played soccer for Howard University.

Jozy Altidore’s parents are from Haiti, and earlier this year he raised more than 100,000 pounds (from England, where he was playing on the Hull city team) for Haitian earthquake relief.

Other players with immigrant parents or who are dual citizens on the U.S. squad are Carlos Bocanegra (father is from Mexico); Jonathan Spector (both grandparents on his mother’s side are German and he has a German passport; Maurice Edu (both parents are from Nigeria); Landon Donovan (father is from Canada); and Hercules Gomez (both parents are from Mexico).

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