Soccer or, as the rest of the world calls it, football, can bring us together as Americans. The World Cup has proved this. If you watched this year’s U.S. performance in Qatar you must have felt proud of your country, the flag and the national anthem.

The one sport that I understand well is soccer. I don’t understand much about baseball or how U.S. football works, and I may not be as excited during the Super Bowl as I am for the World Cup, but I have never been so obsessed with sports as with this World Cup because the team of the nation I share by naturalization qualified and did such a fantastic job. The world gave us so much respect, and nothing means more to our country than that during this difficult time when the U.S. is criticized for its military involvement and politics.

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

Growing up in Somalia, my friends and I have often supported teams from Africa, or Europe since we watched a lot of the Euro Championships. I remember calling out for famous players such as England’s David Beckham and Brazil’s Ronaldo (R9) and France’s Zidane. I cheered for these teams because I had gotten to know how well they played. But I wanted to cheer for a team I could connect more with. Somalia, of course, never qualified for a World Cup.  This year’s World Cup was the first one with a team representing a country I am a citizen of. I supported the U.S. team team from day one when we drew with Wales and England, when we beat Iran and in the last game when we lost to Netherlands. I never gave up on them.

Maine’s largest immigrant population has many huge fans of football or soccer. Before the construction began at Back Cove in Portland, many of us from different backgrounds gathered there to play soccer, celebrating our goals with the same gestures Ronaldo and Messi use. We talked and texted together about them.  This year, we had the World Cup on at TVs at the Halal markets.  We talked about Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie, two great American athletes who made us proud.

New Mainers have role models now. We already have some talented soccer players in this state, but team U.S.A.’s performance at the World Cup has strengthened the interest in U.S. sports. Every American can now think of soccer as one of our best sports and this makes us more inclusive and stronger. Australia and Canada have World Cup players who were born and raised at refugee camps. America will and can do the same in the next World Cup.

Team U.S.A is out of the running for now, but we co-host the next World Cup in 2026. The pride in our country’s sports teams can cross barriers and connect Americans across belief systems. Seeing immigrant players represent America can give others motivation to pursue soccer dreams.


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