Which nationality should he choose?

Theoretical question for you today. My son is almost 17 months old. I’m English by birth, now living in California, my wife and son were both born in California. My son therefore is both an American citizen and a British one. He already has two passports, and has used them both, the lucky whatsit.

Football, as it is correctly called around the world, because you primarily use your feet, or soccer as it is known in the US, where a game you primarily use your hands in is called football instead, is a sport I’m vary fond of. It is a game that is easy for anyone to play, but requires some skill and technical ability to play really well. I don’t think people in the US understand how big a game this is around the world. Compare the world wide viewing audience for the Super Bowl which was estimated at 167 million for 2012, against Liverpool Vs Man Utd, an English League fixture which has an estimated world audience of 500 million. Football is huge around the world. In the UK, the daily papers will have five or six pages of football news daily, and the football headlines normally dominate the back pages. It is a shame that it isn’t bigger in the US (although it is growing, and the MLS is slowly building and improving), because a really competitive US team would have something to add to the game.

So the question. Let us assume for a moment my son grows up and turns into a skilled football player. He moves to Europe and plays in one of the big leagues, perhaps the English Premier League or the Spanish La Liga. He is good enough to be selected for a national team. He will qualify for both the English and USA national teams, and lets assume, they both badly want him. Money is not an incentive for international football, so who should he choose?

There is obviously a lot of patriotism here in the US, so it might be expected that he support his country of birth. But let us assume for a moment that football has grown in the US, but is still not at the level of American football, or baseball. It would be more prestigious to be a player for England, the birthplace of football.

Would he have more chance of winning something with England? Well England are usually highly ranked in the international team rankings, usually in the top ten, but currently have not won a tournament since 1966. English fans always think the team is going to win (or expect it). When it comes to tournaments, they are usually not good enough (which is sometimes a tale of season end fatigue, but that is another story). The US team is more often making up the numbers, but did have something to contribute, as in the last World Cup. But should a chance of winning be the decider?

Obviously the level of support in the US for football, and the quality of both teams could change in the next twenty or so years until he is old enough, and grown up enough, so I guess I am asking in todays context. Should he be in a position to choose now, which should he choose?

Lexicon word of the day: modicum.


37 comments on “Which nationality should he choose?

  1. L.S. Engler says:

    One thought that immediately popped to mind with this hypothetical is the opportunity to bring the US to a more prominent football position. Here you’ve got this kid who’s so great, both American and England want him. But he grew up in America, his mom’s American, and his dad, though English, lives there, too. That’s definitely more cards on the American side, and, to boot, it’s the sort of patriotic story that Americans tends to love. It gets them more interested in football; they have a celebrity figure they can focus on, they get really enthusiastic, and he might lead the team to more victories and build more following.

    But it could proceed to be just a flash in the pan. Americans are pretty good at being crazed about something for a few years, and then it just sort of peters out. But, hey, if he really is that good, maybe England will take him in after that, and the burst of celebrity may be gone, but he’s still doing what he wants and what he excels at.

    …And, really, that’s the more important thing in the long run.

    • Elliot says:

      England has this daft thing about decent sports people. If he turned out to be good, he would at first be American, as that is the place he was born in. But if he chose to play for England he would be adopted. If he was really good, people would conveniently forget where he was born, but if average he would still be American (playing for England). English people like to think they produce good footballers, even when they don’t (well they do from time to time).

  2. DyingNote says:

    I’d say the US – that’s his citizenship, not his dad’s. And if he turns out to be a good footballer, then the US could do with him (assuming the current state).

    • Elliot says:

      But if it stays in the current state he would be used as a figure head to get people interested, He might be more competitive playing for England.

      • DyingNote says:

        Perhaps, but that interest might be the ignition the game needs. Your son, the saviour of the game – just think, Elliott

        I have a disclosure to make here. I think the English football team sucks – they were a good team once (can’t even remember when any more) but they’re totally wasted now. But having said that (just to spite me), they might shockingly deliver the goods at Euro 2012

      • Elliot says:

        They are pretty crap and it always amuses me how most of England thinks they ought to win every tournament they qualify for, when they haven’t even reached a final since 1966. Having said that, the England team now has a manager who is almost certainly not appropriate, so they will likely go on a good run, although I hesitate to say, they will win.

        Also interesting is that several key players had time out due to injury and so on, so for the first time in a while the whole squad isn’t burnt out after a long season.

  3. subtlekate says:

    Hmm it’s a quandry for sure. My son and myself hold both British and Australian passports and so I understand the dilemma. I like both. He might like both and not wiish to choose and in that case gives up sport and becomes a scientist πŸ™‚ Sorted!

    • Elliot says:

      Well it is pretty unlikely that he would turn out to be that good and have to decide anyway, but it is an interesting dilemma. He could see it as a way of helping the US, or he could turn out to be (too) patriotic. On the other hand there might be great English players who he wants to experience playing with.

      Or the worst might happen. He might like Baseball.

  4. Jeannie says:

    Why can’t he have dual citizenship? Cover all the bets!

    • Elliot says:

      He has dual citizenship, but if he was to play a sport at international level, he can only represent one team. In this case he would qualify for both. The rules for football will allow you to play for a country if your grandparents were / are citizens there, which seems an odd rule to me.

      • Jeannie says:

        So how does David Beckham do it? He’s English playing for an American team isn’t he? Been approached by France. I wonder how he makes it work?

      • Elliot says:

        It is the difference between domestic and international play. At domestic level you are free to play for whoever you want (work permits permitting). The English league is full foreign players which is great. At international level you are representing your country, but the rules around which country you qualify to represent are a bit more complex than being born there. So David can play for whoever wants to pay him as his regular job, but having represented England at International level, he can play for no-one else in international games.

      • Jeannie says:

        I gettcha πŸ™‚

  5. Anne says:

    Being that your son was born in the US and lives there, he might feel inclined to play for his home team, the US.

    • Elliot says:

      Or he might think, this country is madness. I want to represent a country where they can at least get the chocolate right, it nothing else.

  6. crubin says:

    At the risk of sounding unpatriotic (which I’m not), I would say England. It’s a much bigger deal there, and as such, his fame and prestige would be greater. Of course, this is all a moot point if he wants to become a ballerina…

    • Elliot says:

      Carrie, how can you not be patriotic? It is practically in your DNA here. If you don’t have a flag hanging from your house, then you are merely hiding it. My boy has only half this DNA so we don’t know which bit will be dominant. He might prefer the country where they make better chocolate and have a health service which doesn’t leave you in debt if you have to pop into hospital for a couple of stitches. And where it rains a lot.

      He’s too big to be a ballerina. He is really tall for his age and has some strong shoulders. And if he has his mothers coordination, just standing still on one leg might pose a problem.

      • crubin says:

        No, I meant I AM patriotic. Although I have a love of foreign travel and learning about other cultures, I’ll always have a tender spot for my own country, flaws and all. I was just saying I hoped I wouldn’t come off as unpatriotic for suggesting your son play for England. And as you point out, his health care, should he tear his ACL, will be cheaper overseas. A bonus, for sure. πŸ™‚

        As for the best chocolate, I may have to go with Belgium on that one. πŸ™‚

      • Elliot says:

        Sorry, that was a rhetorical question, and you just illustrated my point!

        On the scale of good chocolate I wouldn’t put UK at the top, and Belgium would be a contender, but the UK is definitely above the US on that one.

      • crubin says:

        Ha ha! You got me. But my feathers are all smoothed down again. Chocolate has that effect. And you’ll get no argument from me that the best chocolate lurks across the Atlantic. πŸ™‚

  7. jmmcdowell says:

    An interesting dilemma, for which I have no clear answer. I am, after all, a Libra. I see merit to both options. πŸ™‚

    I also wanted to let you know that I’ve presented you with the Tell Me About Yourself Award. There are no obligations to play, of course, but I enjoy the opportunity to bring new blogs to people’s attention.

    You can find the details at http://jmmcdowell.com/2012/05/20/id-genuinely-appreciate-it-if-you-tell-me-about-yourself/

    I enjoy your blog!

  8. robincoyle says:

    Which ever one offers him the largest salary.

  9. All the countries hate America and Britain. Perhaps move to Canada. No one hates Canadians and they speak American English there too.

  10. Elliot, since he’s 17 months old, perchance we might wait around just a bit to see what HE might want to do? Living in America, he might want to try professional bowling or perhaps NASCAR would be more to his liking.

    • Elliot says:

      But that would spoil my fun.

      Still so long as he doesn’t end up in Baseball. I’m not sure I could face sitting through hours and hours of that.

  11. Eric Alagan says:

    What does your son have to say about this…

  12. DyingNote says:

    Read through all the comments here. Ah, decisions! Good thing I don’t have a child >;->

  13. DyingNote says:

    Oh! What if he wanted to be a cricketer? That would be a no-brainer, eh?

  14. Ooooo, tough call honey….good luck with that!

    Isn’t there like a dual passport thing, dual citizenship or something?


    • Elliot says:

      He does have dual citizenship and two passports (already). He is automatically an American citizen having been legally born there, and he gets British citizenship by descent (or whatever the terms is). His children won’t get British citizenship unless they are born there. – I was more musing on the patriotism vs prestige type thing for the sport.

  15. I read through some of the comments and was shattered at your baseball comment – such a sport! Of course there’s always the NBA if he’s tall as you say… πŸ™‚

    • Elliot says:

      Sorry Baseball is just too slow for me!

      My wife and I keep joking that if he keeps growing he is going to be a wrestler because he will be a giant.

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