Tim Vickery observes:
This idea of representation is especially strong for the South Americans, where the shirt of the national team is such an important symbol of the country.
Back in Brazil and Argentina, the European-based stars are always liable to be branded as mercenaries who are out of contact with the game in the land of their birth – when in fact the players make sacrifices to play for their national team that many Europeans would not be willing to undergo, especially in terms of travelling time.
The Euro-centric nature of football cuts traveling time for European players drastically as it barely takes couple of hours for Michael Ballack or a Cesc Fabregas to return to Germany or Spain to play a World Cup qualifier.
Certainly David Beckham, one of the few exceptions, would vehemently disagree, the time to fly from LA to London is probably similar to the time Robinho takes to fly from Man City to Rio de Janiero. Becks seems to be taking his national career more seriously than his club much to the chagrin of the Galaxy fans. So Vickery’s observation that these players are wishy washy when it comes to national duty is a false dichotomy.
Yes, I think in general the passion for football in Brazil and Argentina is far more intense than in Europe and there might be resentment at the European mercenaries. But the nationalism notion is far more complex. Paradoxically, a feeling of pride is bought on by the number of Brazilians representing other countries. The surfeit of talent has led to a horizontal displacement of Brazilian imports who find clubs and countries willing to naturalize them. The list is truly global. India, Japan, Tunisia, Spain, Switzerland, Mexico, Bolivia, Croatia are but some of them. By that token European players are far less likely to change their nationalities. Miguel Almunia’s case is an exception and that is why the English media is taken up by the story.
The picture of Gazza crying and being consoled by Sir Bobby Robson knowing fully well if England were to progress past the 1990 World Cup semi-finals that he would not be part of it convinces me that nationalism cannot be doled out in such absolute terms.
Tim Vickery observes: