Saturday, June 18, 2016

Reflections on Soccer and Nationalism

A small collection of thoughts from last Sunday's Ukraine vs. Germany European Championship soccer match.

What, where, and who is home? Where do I belong? Who are ''my people''? How did I ever develop such strong connections to my adopted homes? These questions tend to pop up in an expats mind time and time again and the answers are shaped by so many different factors.  But today, it's about who I'm cheering for at the public viewing of a European Championship soccer game. Germany vs. Ukraine is on the big screen tonight here in Munich and amidst the seas of black, red, and gold I'm dressed in blue jeans and a pale yellow t-shirt, a bow the colors of the Ukrainian flag pulling my hair back from my face. Tonight it's about people who call me "наша" (ours) because I'm part of the small majority wearing blue and yellow in the Olympiapark crowd. People who can't believe an American has learned their languages and loves their country. The only explanation - she must be one of us. So we sit a cheer for ''our boys'' tonight, even if they're clearly the underdogs in this match, and I feel such a special sense of belonging which warms my little heart. 

Munich is home, that's no doubt. And I could go on for days about all of the opportunities Germany has given me and all the little things that make me feel like this is where I belong. But deep down inside, I'll always just be a little bit more an Ukrainka :)