Giuseppe Rossi: Italian or American?

Gian-Tomaso MazzocchiContributor IJanuary 9, 2010

CENTURION, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 16: Giuseppe Rossi of Italy during the press conference at Southdowns College on June 16, 2009 in Centurion, South Africa.  (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)
Claudio Villa/Getty Images

With the World Cup fast approaching an interesting question that very much transcends the game itself is brought to the forefront. 

It involves the "Italian" striking sensation Giuseppe Rossi, who has long since chosen to play his international football for Italy.  In doing so, he neglects his American roots.

Rossi was born and raised in the great state of New Jersey.  Is this fair?  Maybe.

Rossi's parents are foreign-born and he has every right "legally" to choose a side. In fact, Rossi himself has dual citizenship. 

Still, should he play for Italy and not the US?  Maybe not.  Did Italy offer him sustenance at any point in his own life?  No.  Did Italy offer him any opportunity to play internationally?

In fact, the US squad asked (in fact, begged) for his participation.  He declined.  The fact is that Giuseppe Rossi and his family owe their livelihood to the United States. 

Again, he declined. 

Where should Rossi play?  For the US squad that needs a forward?  For Italy, a team of former superstars, that needs help getting younger?

As an athlete, you "play to win the game." You play for whom you represent.  And you have no greater honor than representing your "country." 

Giuseppe Rossi should be playing for the United States.  This is a matter of athletic honor in the least and national pride at most. 

Why any athlete would shrink from the challenge of lifting his compatriots and his nation up to new levels on the shoulders of his own greatness and instead choose to run and hide in the shadow of an established giant is a mystery to me. 

Personal pride, if nothing else, would be enough to steer most athletes in the direction of doing the noble (and more difficult) thing.

As an Italian speaking American with much of my own family living in Italy (family I visit frequently), I certainly understand the allure of playing for the great Azzuri.

As a child who played sports including soccer I was in awe of the team and its enormous talents.  I still am.  I was on the edge of my seat in 2006 and I wept tears of joy after the final PK was made.

I only wish I were a good enough footballer to play for my country.  To have such an honor bestowed upon oneself must be an awesome feeling.

But the fact remains that as much as I love my Italian family and their country, if I were in a position to choose which country I could play for, I would choose the United States of America. 

This is where I was born.  This is the country that raised me.  This is the country that has provided for me and my family, offering us endless and unselfish opportunity.  This is where my obligations lie.  If only I were that good...what an honor it would be.      

Here in the US, we can use you, paesano.  Italy can do without. 

One thing is for certain, if Rossi plays for Italy this summer in South Africa, one fan's Azzuri jersey will stay tucked away neatly in a drawer under his bed.