I’m no soccer expert. But following the World Cup while living abroad has its charms. While we get to experience an international tournament in an equally international environment, we don’t really hesitate in rooting for our own national teams. Well, that is if your country made it to the World Cup.
(Sorry Dutch friends, we’ll just call that a ‘no era penal’ karma). The best part is you get to watch the games with friends whose nationalities are the same as your team’s opponents.
Take Mexico’s first match against Germany as an example. When a German friend told me he was organizing a screening of the game at his flat, I thought projecting each other’s competitiveness while our teams were giving it all on the field would be super fun. So I decided to join. To be honest, I didn’t think we stood a chance against the former World Champion. But to my surprise, Mexico ended up winning 1 over 0.
Not wanting to gloat my country’s success in front of my grieving friend, I just expressed my sympathy. ‘Don’t you want to celebrate with Tequila?’ he said, after a few minutes of processing the loss. He went into his room and surprised me with a bottle of Don Julio, a fine brand of Tequila that his father had brought him from Mexico. After toasting to an exciting game, we continued enjoying the party, and we continued enjoying our lives.
Experiences like these make me reflect on what ‘nationality’ represents to us: nomad students who keep jumping from place to place, absorbing knowledge from many cultures, and befriending people from all over the world. I’ve read concerns about how the massive mobilization of international students is leading to a new generation of professionals who are stripped of a national identity and have fragile cultural roots as remnants. But since I have the World Cup around the corner, I am inclined to refute such concerns and point out that sentiments stemming from our nationality are far from fading away.
There seems to be no uncertainty within international students when deciding which team our heart belongs to. Perhaps the idea of living far away from home intuitively suggests that you forget your origins. But the truth is coexisting with other national identities makes your own take a clear and distinct shape. When your social circle is composed of people from all over the world, you’re able to put into perspective the things that make your home country unique and how your personality is tied to it. However, from such a wide perspective, you cannot help but consider that there are many other national identities thriving around you. It becomes evident that while we’re quite diverse, we still share needs and aspirations.
I don’t know if Mexico will go much further in the tournament, but at least my reflections will remain. Because if there’s a particular way to uphold our national identities while celebrating the existence of other nationalities as well, the World Cup seems to be a suitable event to discover it.