Monday, June 21, 2010

Football: Deciding what country to represent not always easy

JOHANNESBURG — Pick a country, any country. Better yet, pick two.

National pride can be a complicated thing at the World Cup. While most players are representing the countries where they were born, others — for various reasons — are like U.N. ambassadors. One Boateng brother plays for Germany, the other for Ghana. Algeria's Hassan Yebda won an Under-17 world title with France. Winston Reid is a Kiwi by way of Denmark. Stuart Holden was born in Scotland and still has a U.K. passport, yet now wears the colors of the United States.

"Moving to the States at 10 and becoming ingrained in the culture and considering myself an American — obviously, I still have that Scottish tradition and culture that I'll never forget," Holden said. "But being able to represent the U.S. in a World Cup is something that is really prideful to me, and something I'll carry with me for the rest of my life."

Switching allegiances is nothing new in sports, soccer in particular. Joe Gaetjens, who scored the only goal in the United States' monumental upset of England in 1950, was from Haiti. Alfredo di Stefano, one of the game's greatest players, played for Spain and Colombia as well as his native Argentina. Ferenc Puskas, the mightiest of Hungary's "Magical Magyars," finished his international career with Spain.

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