To many American soccer fans, the name "Giuseppe Rossi" will forever mean "turncoat," or "sellout," basically US Soccer's counterpart to the definition Boston Red Sox fans have given to the name "Johnny Damon," or unfairly, "Roger Clemens."
And today, it has appeared that his decision to suit up for his country of descendance—Italy—instead of his true homeland—the United States—took a turn for the worse.
Today Rossi, who was born in New Jersey, was left out of Italy's 23-man roster for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Rossi, currently a member of Spanish club Villareal, has scored three goals in 14 appearances for the Azzuri, while netting 33 goals in 91 appearances for his club.
However, even with his nice career thus far in Villareal, with whom he is the club's second striker, it still was not good enough to be selected by Italian coach Marcello Lippi, whose team is in Group F along with New Zealand, Paraguay, and Slovakia, attempting to defend their 2006 championship.
Rossi played well for the Azzuri in last year's Confederations Cup in South Africa, even as Italy failed to reach past the Group Stage. He even scored two goals against his native USA in a 3-1 opening win. However, he did struggle for Villareal in the second half of the season, and many among the Italian media saw this snub coming.
However, despite Rossi's struggles, had he just intended play for the United States—again, his birth country—instead of Italy, he for sure in my mind would have been selected by Bob Bradley for the 2010 US squad.
No disrespect to Edson Buddle, Robbie Findley, and Herculez Gomez, the three strikers that will be paired up with Jozy Altidore, but I believe Rossi would have been selected in front of one of them, and would have probably been the team's second striker behind Altidore.
Instead, however, he will be sitting at home watching the World Cup, instead of donning a country's uniform and playing in front of the world.
Now, of course the American soccer experience for a player is not even close to the way soccer is regarded in Italy, where it easily is the national sport.
While soccer ranks behind football, baseball, basketball, and in many cases, hockey, in the sports food chain here in America, soccer is easily Italy's most popular sport—with only rugby union as significant competition.
It's pretty easy to see why someone—especially in a case like Rossi, who had Italian parents—would want to play in Italy and represent Italy instead of playing in the United States and representing the US. The United States, despite recent progress, still has miles to go in their quest toward having a top-soccer experience in the world.
Having said that, the Rossi dilemma exposes a key problem in the world of international soccer—the fact that someone can play for a national team other than the country they were born in or spent the majority of their life in.
I would understand if "Player A," who was born in Senegal but emigrated to France at the age of 3 with his family would choose to play for France, even though he was born in Senegal. "Player A" basically grew up under French influence, and probably saw himself as a Frenchman. I would consider that case is different.
However, for a case like Rossi—where a player was born in one nation but plays for a country that he never spent significant time in during his life—is one issue that I hope FIFA takes steps to improve.
I do understand that Rossi's parents are Italian immigrants, but still. Rossi is an American—not an Italian—and he was born in America. He should represent the country of his birth. No questions asked.
I probably sound like a bitter American soccer fan, whining about another "lost product," and I do understand that Rossi is not the only American-born player turning his back on US Soccer and playing for a different national team.
But to me, you either play for the country of your birth (or the country you've spent the most of your life in) or do not play international soccer at all.
To me, it simply damages the purity of the nation's best 11 playing the other nation's best 11.
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