World Festival of Nationalism Praised as Anti-Trumpian Cosmopolitanism
June 08, 2018, 10:00 PM
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Every four years, the World Festival of Nationalism (the World Cup soccer tournament) rolls around, and Americans are told that soccer is all about cosmopolitanism.

From the Washington Post:

Soccer is the perfect cosmopolitan antidote to Donald Trump

An answer to the isolationism and xenophobia sweeping the United States.

By Andrés Martinez June 7 at 2:49 PM

Andrés Martinez, a professor of practice at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, is also a fellow at New America. He is writing a book on the globalization of sports.

Martinez is a Mexico-born Conquistador-American opinion journalist.

Donald Trump may be the “America First” president, but his youngest son is a rather worldly sports fan. Barron, 12, has been spotted wearing a full Arsenal kit, making him a boy of impeccable taste, if somewhat dashed hopes. …

Barron is not alone. His is the first generation of American fans to be truly connected to the international game, not just as players but increasingly as followers.

Personally, I don’t recall following the 1966 World Cup when I was seven, but I can recall the plot of a short story in Boy’s Life around 1968 or 1969 that was set at an England-Brazil match at the World Cup: the English goalie main character has to guess whether the Pele-like Brazilian superstar will go left or right with his penalty kick. I followed the 1970 World Cup in the newspapers and can remember most of the World Cups since then.

Although World Cup action is often less than scintillating, the basic interest in famous (and obscure) nations doing battle is obvious to anybody who has been an eleven year old boy.

This fall of the sports iron curtain, drawing American kids (and their parents) into a globalized sports culture, is a powerful attitudinal antidote to the backlash against globalization in our politics. At a time when so many cultural and political forces are urging us to shrink our worldview, sports are expanding it.

For Americans, the nation’s sports isolationism, much like our defiant refusal to go metric, has historically served to strengthen American exceptionalism.

… Globalization, both as an economic fact and as a mind-set, is on the retreat everywhere, rolled back by the appeal of nostalgic, populist nationalism. Yet sports continue to globalize, expanding people’s connectivity and understanding across borders.

So that’s the appeal of the World Cup? So that’s why drunken Mexican fans drive around the Rose Bowl for hours honking Pancho Villa’s “La Cucaracha” on their car horns whenever the Mexican national team beats the American national team?

It’s happening everywhere. In Britain, too, there is a tension, if not an outright contradiction, between the 2016 vote for a Brexit that signaled a national retrenchment and the enthusiasm for its ever-more-globalized Premier League, which draws all-star owners, coaches and players from all over the world.

Interestingly, soccer’s lack of racial diversity is seldom mentioned. Here is ESPN’s pick for the top soccer players in the world at present, based on some combination of fans’ vote and 30 soccer editors’ vote:

Looks like two blacks, nine whites, and a manager (upper right) who resembles Dave Barry down to the British Invasion mop-top haircut. No East Asians, no Latin American mestizos, and definitely no South Asians.

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