Multicultural Vida

Fútbol… Football… le foot… soccer?!?

Baby Enzo in OM gear! (Olympique Marseille)
Baby Enzo in OM gear! (Olympique Marseille)
Baby Enzo in OM gear! (Olympique Marseille)

Growing up in a Hispanic household, I did not grow up watching “Monday night football” or the Superbowl…  I only remember that it was something that sometimes coincided with my birthday. My dad watched fútbol. I remember asking him questions, what are the rules? What do they do? How long does it go for? I remember watching Maradona, Pele, and el Pibe Valderrama.  I was exposed to a lot of fútbol growing up (as is most of the world!). Since my summers were usually spent in Ecuador, I supported the local team in Guayaquil (Barcelona S.C.) and even went to the stadium a few times. As a teenager going to an all-girl school in NYC, we did not have a football culture like the one seen on US TV shows.

So for me, it was all about fútbol. Soccer, as it is called in the United States, is the sport that has been a part of my life growing up, and I have to say, I love it. When I moved to Europe I loved going to bars and watching the games, and getting excited about goals, or screaming at the screen because they missed a pass, or worse a GOAL. (Note: whereas in the US women play soccer, and perhaps in other countries women are fans of soccer, in France, I found that it’s really a guy sport, so when they see a girl screaming at the screen at a bar, well they just think you’re nuts…) In 2006, I lived in France when it reached the finals of the World Cup… quite amazing moments. Many believe Zinedine Zidane’s headbutt cost France the World Cup title that year, crowning Italy world champion.

Football (as most of the English-speaking world calls it) was invented by the British… perhaps one of the reasons why the United States looked to create new sports, marking a break from its colonizers? (Totalguess on my part) In any case, American football, what the US calls football, was never a part of my life growing up. I don’t think I have ever watched a game in its entirety, I have never been to a real live fame, and until recently I did not understand the rules (I still don’t fully understand it, to be honest…) I guess this is part of my upbringing, since no one watched it at home, and we didn’t do football in school. It is also an example of what it is like to live in two worlds, as many Hispanics do…

Now that I have a son, I have been thinking about soccer, football, sports, what it all means, I guess these thoughts are inevitable when you are raising a multi-cultural child. Being a French-American and Latino kid, he will be more exposed to “le foot”/ fútbol than most of his friends will be… I will have to rely on my American friends (and tio Andres?) to explain who the Giants are and what they do, how you play the game, and how American football is different from what his Abuelo and Papa watch on tv, that which here in the US we call soccer (but, that which his dad will probably explain to him “is really called football”). I can’t wait for him to learn more about soccer (he already watches it with his Papa, and says GOL) and to play soccer…He will grow up by default to be an “Olympique de Marseille” supporter (French Ligue 1 team) just like his Papa.

My hope is that soccer will be a lot more popular in the United States when he grows up and there’s hope! Rich Luker, a social scientist, believes soccer is one generation away from being a main sport in the United States. This news shouldn’t be surprising, with the rising number of Hispanics and other minorities in the United States who adore soccer.There are signs that soccer is gaining popularity, and it is good for the economy! There are soccer schools popping up all over country. MLS teams are gaining in popularity (ahem, thank you David Beckham… we will miss you). In July, over 38,000 people went to see two top European teams (Chelsea and Paris St. Germain) play in Yankee Stadium. In August, we battled rain and thunderstorm to see Ecuador beat Chile 3-0 in a friendly game at Citifield… there were over 30,000 people in the stadium!

I love the thrill of watching fútbol when a team I love is playing… and if you’re wondering what team I support… if France is playing, France for my hubby, if Ecuador is playing I will support my parents’ land, but if the USA is playing either of those teams… USA all the way!

It will be interesting to see what my son learns to love, especially when he enters school and his friends talk about other sports… baseball, football, basketball… for us, soccer will be a way to keep our Hispanic and French cultures alive, which is important to both my husband and I.

Would love to know your thoughts! Did you experience this with any sport growing up? If you’re a momma that loves soccer, let me know! (David Beckham anyone?) If you are a mommy raising bicultural/multicultural kids and this rings a bell, let me know! or any other sports?  tweet me @dianalimongi  or leave a comment below! gracias! 

Diana Limongi
Diana a mom, activist, nonprofit professional, podcaster and writer from Queens, NY. She writes about motherhood, activism, raising my multilingual kids, culture and travel. She and her multicultural family live in Queens, NY.

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