Local and national politics have put most recent immigrants on a trajectory of fear, withdrawal and, at times, uncertainty of the future of this country.

Abdi Nor Iftin is a Somali-American writer, radio journalist and public speaker. He lives in Yarmouth.

We should not let these fears take away the moments of joy. We are in NFL season and most people can’t help but notice all the sports tweets and photos posted on social media or in the paper every day.

Americans love their sports, but these are sports most of the world does not pay much attention to. At first, American sports can seem complex and confusing. There is a lot to learn in each sport, and for those who did not grow up with them, it can be overwhelming. When you get into it, it is rewarding.

Growing up in Somalia I memorized, like you would memorize your favorite poem, names of popular soccer players in Europe and Latin America. I could start from Pelé, Maradona and end at Roberto Baggio.

I don’t ever remember looking at these stars based on their race or religion or even political affiliation. When it comes to sports, we should love it and embrace it, not politicize it. Just become a fan of the New England Patriots, like I did, and see what happens.

I remember my first stroll through a high school turf in Yarmouth. I watched parents cheering for their little kids as the kids puttered about while some did throwing and swinging. The big smiles on the parents said it all.

I think Americans are serious about their sports. They proudly wear hats of their favorite teams, wear their jerseys and have stickers on their cars showing which team they cheer for. They make you want to get into it. I did.

It is difficult living in Maine and not engaging in sports conversations. These conversations about sports can come up any time – at dinner on a first date or at the bus stop, where a stranger might start a conversation by asking what you thought about the game last night. I have watched Americans meet for the first time and talk about sports; it felt like they had known each other for years. They proudly talk about their own high school sports and their children’s favorite sports.

American parents take the time to play sports with their kids and argue about it after. My father was a star in the Somalia National Basketball team in the 1980s, but I was not lucky enough to grow up to play sports with him. The war happened before I could even talk properly, then sports ended for Somalia.

European soccer tournaments are extremely popular in Africa; the sport inspired many young Africans to excel in soccer, and they rose to the top of the world stars. Think of Didier Drogba, Mo Salah and others.

These foreign-born athletes who first embraced soccer are now the new faces of a continent the world associated with poverty. They are reconstructing the images of the continent, while foreigners are starting to embrace the communities these sports players come from.

This leads to more understanding and integration in different societies. The United States has that opportunity. New Mainers and immigrants who embrace American sports do not have to leave behind their cultures; it can help strengthen friendships.

Moreover, embracing these sports can help fight xenophobia as well. Salah, a Muslim from Egypt, may have reduced Islamophobia in Liverpool, England. The majority of his fans are white Europeans who may see the continent of Africa and the Middle East from a different point of view.

Similarly, athletes born outside of the United States play an important role in professional sports in the United States. According to the National Foundation for American Policy, foreign-born players make up 23% of rosters in the NBA.

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