Photo by ISIphotos.com
Admit it, you hate Giuseppe Rossi.
If you are a U.S. national team fan this morning you are cursing Rossi and have included him in the group along with Cuauhtemoc Blanco, Oswaldo Sanchez and Jared Borghetti in the pantheon of most hated U.S. national team opponents.
I say go ahead and hate him. You are allowed.
Having written more about Rossi through the years than most (I broke the story of Rossi's move to Manchester United from Parma many moons ago) I have written columns explaining Rossi's decision to play for Italy and why he made that choice, and why people shouldn't blame him for his decision.
That does not mean U.S. fans can't hate him.
International soccer is professional soccer, which is professional sports, and in the passionate world of pro sports, hating athletes is a way of life and a sign of respect and it isn't something any fan should be made to feel ashamed of. As Reggie Jackson once famously said, "Fans don't boo nobodies."
Most U.S. fans don't hate Rossi simply because he didn't choose to play fo the USA, the hate stems from the fact that Rossi is a special talent, a once-in-a-generation player who has qualities never seen in an American player before. If it were simply about not playing for the USA then Americans fans would have much more hate for Edgar Castillo, who not only chose another country but chose arch-rival Mexico. As it stands, Castillo goes largely ignored by American fans, an afterthought who only recently came back into the picture now that a FIFA rule change could allow him to play for the United States.
Rossi's defenders are correct that there is some hypocrisy in hating Rossi for his decision but accepting other players who choose the USA over their countries of birth. This is true, but in none of those instances is a transcendant player snubbing their native country for the USA. That doesn't make any of it right, but those are the facts. Ghana is getting along just fine without Freddy Adu and Germany won't miss Jermaine Jones. Yes, the U.S. national team is still pretty good without Rossi, but it wouldn't be a stretch to say the United States would have beaten Italy on Monday if Rossi were wearing an American uniform.
Would it be better if U.S. fans could embrace and appreciate Rossi as an American product the way some African fans embrace their countrymen who choose to play for other countries? Of course it would, but the difference is that in many of those African instances, the native fans have spent years reading about the development of those players so they develop an attachment to them and identify with them. In Rossi's case, U.S. fans heard little about him as he came through the ranks and few were aware of his existence before he broke out with Parma after going on loan from Manchester United.
Hating Rossi is a natural reaction, but folks should temper the hatred. I now people don't always mean what they say when writing anonymously on the internet, but folks wishing death on Rossi and his family have let emotions get the best of them. In the end, we are talking about a game. Rossi's decision will probably cost the U.S. team victories, but it hasn't cost anybody their life.
Nobody HAS TO hate Rossi. If you played against him growing up, or knew him from his Clifton days, and seeing him succeed gives you a sense of pride, then go right ahead and support him and enjoy his success. That said, nobody should criticize the American fans who don't feel the same about Rossi.
If you are a U.S. fan who hates Rossi, I won't tell you not to, but I will say that you can feel free to take some of that energy and spend it on the American players who wore the USA shield on Monday. Tim Howard, Oguchi Onyewu, Michael Bradley and Landon Donovan didn't have the impact Rossi had on Monday, but they all played well enough to make USA fans proud.
Many American soccer fans hate Rossi and will hate him for a long time, at the very least until another American player comes along who is as good as he is. Something tells me Rossi can take it. He should be able to. It is part of the deal that comes with being a professional athlete, and part of the deal that comes with breaking the hearts of an entire country's fans.