Hey everyone! In honour of the Tokyo Olympics coming up, I wanted to share some stories about international sporting events that I have seen in my life. People ask me questions about it, so here are all the answers! Please note, in this post, I refer to soccer as football, unless I specify that it’s American Football. It’s easier to say football in this case because it’s better known that way globally. But before I start, I wanted to talk about something important to know about TCKs.
This is a thing that is common with TCKs when it comes to cheering on sports teams or athletes. Sometimes, it’s hard to say who we support in sporting events because of our many cultures. There’s no rule that says we absolutely have to support certain athletes. I hear a lot from native-born citizens of countries that they feel patriotic when they see their athletes performing. I do feel that way, but with a twist. Some great athletes are just amazing to see and it warms your heart. When that happens, it doesn’t matter where they are from. You’re just happy to see them do well.
I don’t identify as Swedish or Romanian, but I absolutely love Carolina Klüft who won gold for Sweden in the women’s heptathlon in Athens 2004. One of my favourite gymnasts is Catalina Ponor from Romania. I had the pleasure of seeing her perform live in the London 2012 Olympics. Other athletes I love include Usain Bolt, Russian pairs skaters Tatiana Totmianina and Maxim Maranin, Svetlana Khorkina, and I loved seeing Chantal Peticlerc even before I became Canadian! Although it was conflicting with my support for Tanni Grey-Thompson, it was nice to see she and Chantal Peticlerc got along really well. I also LOVE American gymnast Shawn Johnson! I wasn’t the only one either. She was one of those people who gets to know everyone, even on the other teams and everyone loved her.
Additionally, thanks to the fact I trained in Russian ballet for years, I know why Russian and Eastern European gymnasts, skiers and ice skaters are so good. They train in the Russian ballet system, so they have my unconditional support! Okay, I already sense some future divided loyalties between supporting Russia or Canada in the Winter Olympics lol!
Funny and Amazing Divided Loyalty Stories:
It’s actually comical sometimes whenever I see two or more countries I identify with competing together in the same event. If it’s a football game in either Euro or the World Cup, I like to see things unfold first, especially if they are two very strong teams competing.
One time, I saw a women’s track final at the Olympic Games that 6 out of 8 of the runners were either British or American! I was officially beat! I didn’t know who to support! In the end, I was just happy to see the race and happy for the winners. In the 2006 Winter Olympics, I was supporting Lindsey Jacobellis of the USA in the women’s snowboarding final. She fell after she grabbed her board, and was beaten by Tanja Frieden of Switzerland. Wow! Divided loyalties I didn’t expect!
Additionally, there were a lot of Jamaican people where I grew up. When Usain Bolt won his gold medals, my neighbourhood ERUPTED!! I happily joined in the celebrations! If my friends support different athletes than me, I’m happy for those athletes too. I want to say more about divided loyalties in general, but I will save that for another post.
UEFA Euro Cup:
Before I start, I wanted to say that I don’t like football, but I do love seeing major international tournaments. I couldn’t understand why England was so obsessed with their national sport. I have never known Americans to be as obsessed with baseball or American football and Canadians are definitely not as obsessed with hockey. Even though football is popular around Europe, I found the obsession with football in England to be a little over the top. Then again, whenever I see something is over the top, I don’t get into it. I think that’s where I learned it from.
That realization of the English obsession with football hit me when England was playing in Euro 2004. It wasn’t as safe to go out when England was playing a game. Whenever I was out, I did my best to avoid the areas with pubs (not always easy in England). One time, England lost a game and there was a riot. As time went on, I realized that riots were normal if England lost a major football game. Whenever I was out at that time, I had to plan even safer routes than I normally would.
I would see things in the news about English football fans causing trouble if they travelled to a country hosting a major football tournament. Fans would get arrested or fined or held accountable in some way for doing the same crap they always do after a game, except in another country where it’s not acceptable. Any time I heard about football fans being disrespectful to another culture, I would roll my eyes! As a TCK, my number one rule is to always make an effort to be culturally respectful. It doesn’t mean I won’t make mistakes, but I try to the best of my ability.
And Then Euro 2020 Happened:
Before 2020, I did continue to watch Euro until I repatriated to the USA. I checked the results of Euro 2016 online though. I hoped the most recent Euro would be broadcast on CBC. No such luck. Still, I found a way to see the match highlights and keep up on the news and support England, France and Switzerland! I was stunned to learn that Euro 2020 was at Wembley Stadium! I move from London, and then England gets to host it! Darn! I had some concerns though because there was already news of English football fans being culturally disrespectful to the other teams. They booed during the Italian national anthem and even physically attacked fans supporting other countries. Although my Mum and I were happy that England made it to the final, we suspected that if England lost, there would be a massive riot with a prejudiced twist.
Sure enough, England lost and racist English fans were blowing up social media. That was due to Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka missed penalties that could have won the match. Black people in England started being violently attacked for a couple of days afterwards. Mum and I hate that we called it.
Additionally, because I have close contacts in London, I am privy to more insider information there. A contact sent me this thing that was circulating around Snapchat that was a scoring game for committing certain racist attacks. I’m not going to share it because it’s the most unconscionable, diabolical thing I have ever seen! I have seen people make racist comments on social media, but this is above and beyond! Fortunately, people started to move on a few days later, but racism in England still has a long way to go. So NOT surprised by this!
More on Microaggressions in Sports:
After what happened in England, I wonder if they will be banned from the World Cup in 2022, or from future Euro tournaments. Their participation was already controversial because they left the EU. Although, Russia is allowed to participate in Euro and they aren’t part of the EU. Still, I would support UEFA if they banned England from Euro. Heck, they banned Hungary at Euro for racist and homophobic attacks. I admit I am glad that international sports organizations are catching on that they need to hold teams accountable for microaggressions.
As time has gone on, I have seen more and more athletes stand up to the rampant sexism in sports. I’m cheering on the Norwegian and Australian beach volleyball teams for refusing to wear bikinis. Beach volleyball was clearly instituted by horny old geezers in the IOC. Additionally, the Canadian Olympic team has been making accommodations for athletes who are mothers. It’s so amazing to see. I saw this series called Sports on Fire on CBC, and one of them is about the history of genetic testing in sports and discrimination against women who are XY or genetically different from the imposed sex and gender binary. I’m glad that there is more advocacy for change and the wheels are in motion for that change. It’s a stark contrast to when I started watching major sports in the early 2000s.
How It Used to Be:
The most memorable incident of violence I witnessed was in the Football World Cup in 2006. Zinedine “Zizou” Zidane of France headbutted Marco Materazzi for calling his sister a w***e. English newspapers claimed Materazzi called Zizou, “You son of a terrorist w***e!” Granted, both of those are disgusting and I’m glad Zidane headbutted Materazzi. But who got red-carded and penalized? Zidane. Super unfair. I think if it were to happen today, Materazzi would be more likely to be penalized. What’s more violent? A slur against someone’s sister, or headbutting the perpetrator who said it? I’m going with the slur. Plus, it says a lot about Zidane to stand up to toxic masculinity like that. One of my favourite movies is Bend It Like Beckham, and one reason it stands out for me is how they deal with slurs towards players.
I would advocate that athletes who play on the international stage need to have training on how to be culturally intelligent and respectful. Even the best of us make mistakes sometimes, but it’s getting to the point that when mistakes do happen, there needs to be culturally intelligent solutions. We’re just a day into the Olympics and I have already seen more Olympians who have multicultural backgrounds than ever before. Of course, not everyone has that privilege, especially if they are from countries that aren’t as open to other cultures. Bottom line: our world is more open and interconnected, so cultural intelligence is becoming paramount for everyone. One change I’m happy to see is that there is now a Refugee Olympic Team. Plus, whenever presenters talked about certain athletes’ backgrounds and said they had lived in different countries, I’m like, “Yep, possible TCK there!”
Anyway, I have some more to say about the Olympics.
How the Olympic Games Have Followed Me Through My Life:
I was living in France when the 1992 Winter Olympics were being held in Savoie. When we were in the US in 1996, the Summer Olympics were in Atlanta. Both times, we missed out on seeing them. Then, we heard London was going to bid for the 2012 Olympics, and in 2005, we waited with bated breath. The day we got the news that London would host the 2012 Olympics was amazing! Plus, we got the news within a week of the terrorist attack on July 7, 2005, and it felt great to have a boost like that. I found myself wondering how the city would change due to the Olympics. We decided it was worth making the effort to stay in London to see the Olympics.
There was a ticket lottery to see the Olympics. Okay, England didn’t do a good job with tickets, and there were definite problems with bookings. My parents and I decided to enter the lottery to see diving, Artistic Gymnastics apparatus finals, fencing, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby. We thought the only one we were least likely to get was the gymnastics. We knew the Paralympic events would be easy to get because they aren’t as popular. When I got the email that we were going to see the gymnastics finals, I must have read over the email 5 times before I believed it!
Was it worth it for London to get the Olympics? I shall say that in another post! Meanwhile, “Go Canada Go!” 🇨🇦