In defence of Giuseppe Rossi

June 17, 2009

American soccer fans aren’t noted for their nastiness but the reaction to Giuseppe Rossi, New Jersey native, scoring twice for Italy against the U.S in their 3-1 Confederations Cup defeat on Monday has been surprisingly vitriolic.

What has upset U.S fans is that Rossi was born and bred in the U.S. but chose to play for another country and then — to add insult to injury — celebrated when he scored twice against his country of birth.

Rossi has Italian parents (his father was a soccer coach) also holds Italian citizenship, moved to Parma when he was 12 and was part of the Italian club’s youth scheme before joining Manchester United aged 17. He has represented Italy at youth level before joining the full national side. He now plays in Spain for Villarreal and is the subject of some pretty intense speculation linking him with a move back to one of Italy’s top clubs.

There is now a facebook group with nearly 400 members called ‘We Hate Giuseppe Rossi’ which features a picture of the forward with the word ‘Scum’ superimposed on it. Twitter contributors have labelled Rossi a traitor and there is worse out there.

The word “traitor” is entirely out of place in describing Rossi. In the modern, globalised world it is nothing at all out of the ordinary for players to have dual nationalities. It happens all the time. In fact, if my wife were to give birth to a son here in Miami, he would be eligible to play for four different countries (including, like Rossi, the U.S and Italy). These sort of situations are going to become more and more common in the future.

But it is particularly unfair to attack Rossi for his choice.

First of all, there is the matter of identity. With two Italian parents, Rossi clearly has a strong affinity for Italy.

Secondly, having left the U.S at the age of 12, he has not been part of the U.S youth coaching set-up and so owes nothing to U.S soccer (the bitterness would be more understandable had Rossi benefited from years of American coaching and soccer academies and then as an adult chosen to play for Italy).

Thirdly, he moved to Italy before he was even a teenager and received five years of coaching, schooling and development with Parma and the Italian Football Federation’s coaches, so he owes them much more than he owes U.S Soccer. I mean, he even played for Italy’s Under-16 team.

Often players choose to ‘adopt’ a country in order to gain an easier chance at becoming an international player. But Rossi can hardly be accused of that. As the online magazine American Soccer News puts it:

“In fact, the decision to play for Italy was a big risk if he ever wanted to have a national team career of any sort. Winners of four World Cups (including the most recent edition) and home to one of the best professional leagues on the planet, competition for Italy’s national team spots is fierce. Personnel decisions are analyzed meticulously by the country’s soccer-mad press. The pressure on players fortunate enough to don the national team kit is intense.

“Every mistake is scrutinizedat great length in the papers and cafes and grottos and wherever else people gather. Many players’ lives (and those of their families) are ruined as a result. Why would any young man make the decision to expose himself to this maelstrom when he had a far easier, safer choice available to him?

“Rossi would have been all but guaranteed a starting spot for the US, probably for as long as he wanted, where he would not have been subject to anywhere near the same scrutiny.”

Indeed, to add to that, Rossi could find himself, in a year’s time, if his current excellent form deserts him, not making the Italy World Cup squad and be sat at home watching the U.S playing in South Africa and knowing that he would have walked into their team.

So why the bitterness about someone who hasn’t lived in the U.S since he was 12? I think it shows, above all, the deep disappointment among North American fans who have been waiting and waiting for a genuine world class talent to emerge.

While the U.S has produced scores of decent professionals, they really haven’t found anyone who would attract the likes of Manchester United or AC Milan to get their chequebooks out.

The all-time top scorer for the U.S national side, Landon Donovan, has had three tries at a career in the Bundesliga and failed to make the grade on every occasion. Freddy Adu was hailed as the first American global soccer star and although he is still only 20, his career so far in Europe has stuttered along.

Rather than vent fury at Rossi, American fans would do better to ask themselves whether Rossi would be the player he is now if he had chosen to stay in the United States and spend his formative years with a junior club here and then join a Major League Soccer team?

The sad truth is that if Rossi had stayed in the U.S, we probably wouldn’t be arguing about him now — he’d be just another no-name in the MLS, getting the occasional outing in the national side, playing with the anonymous lack of flair and style that is unfortunately typical of players coached in the U.S system.

PHOTO: Italy’s Giuseppe Rossi celebrates after scoring against the U.S during their Confederations Cup match at the Loftus Versfeld stadium in Pretoria, June 15, 2009. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

25 comments

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Oh and I forgot to mention – I don’t think there is anything wrong with him celebrating his goals. He was obviously delighted to score for his team and to fake indifference would be pointless.

Posted by Simon Evans | Report as abusive

What a honest article vs Ives who fuels hate for Rossi

Posted by Joey | Report as abusive

Nothing to see here. Move along. As you say, happens all the time and is going to happen more and more. Criticism of this nice kid is out of all proportion.

Posted by kendo | Report as abusive

I think most Americans who are not happy with Rossi have no problem with him going overseas to improve himself as a player. Great move. The problem is that he turned down the U.S., which he says is “home” when offered a chance to play on the national team. This is not like Becky Hammon of the WNBA’s San Antonio Silver Stars playing for Russia and against the U.S. in the Beijing Olympics. Hammon was basically told by the U.S. Olympic coach that she was not wanted, so she looked for another avenue to the Olympics. Good for her. If Rossi considers himself an American, he should be playing for the U.S. team. If not, go to Italy and don’t come back.

Posted by Tom | Report as abusive

Don’t panic – by the time he reaches the arse-end of his career I’m sure he’ll be happy to grace the MLS.*Sorry, ass-end.

Posted by Bert | Report as abusive

[...] Simon Evans: Reuters [...]

Rossi made great commitment to get to where he is today. Give him credit for his personal goal – getting to play for (historically) one of the best teams in the world. He should be excited to score. They were 2 cracking goals…US soccer is so far behind, why wouldn’t he play for the country of his heritage? His family should be proud…

As a soccer fan, and American, I have no problem with Rossi. There is zero chance that he would be nearly as good of player as he is today had he stayed in the United States. Not only is US Soccer depleted of the country’s top athletes (from playing other sports), but the coaching and understanding of the game is rather poor in comparison.Notice the number of members of that facebook group…only 400. If, for example, Kobe Bryant, who lived in Italy as a youth had decided to play for the Italian Olympic team instead of the US, that size would be more like 400,000.Ultimately the bitterness shown towards Rossi is being done by those American soccer fans who need to vent their frustration with the quality of the MLS and their national side, knowing that our chances of having such talent play for us anytime soon is almost none.

Posted by Nate | Report as abusive

“So why the bitterness about someone who hasn’t lived in the U.S since he was 12? I think it shows, above all, the deep disappointment among North American fans who have been waiting and waiting for a genuine world class talent to emerge.”Oh, I fully admit that that’s exactly what it is. This guy is a world-class talent and he could, amazingly, be playing for us. Instead he chooses to play for the already beyond-talented Italy, and again we’re left wondering what it takes to get our first truly world-class player. Yeah, there’s bitterness there, no doubt. I don’t seriously believe Rossi’s a “traitor” (that’s a ridiculous accusation, though it’s fun to toss it around) but he was born here and spent the first 12 years of his life here…and yet somehow Italy, winners of four World Cups, get him. Who wouldn’t be irked?

Not to be pessimistic about the US’s chances in the upcoming world cup (especailly after watching the last two games), but any pragmatist would agree that Italy has a far better chance at winning the Cup…so I’m happy for Rossi and the opportunity that his heritage has allotted him. Honestly, who wouldn’t want to play with a winning team?

He worked hard for a spot on the team, so he deserves to celebrate. Football players work to score goals and he had two beautiful goals. He should celebrate.

Posted by David | Report as abusive

Anyone who is a fan of soccer in the U.S. understands why Rossi would play in Italy.He’s Dad – a soccer coach – realizes something that all soccer coaches in the US should admit – the US is not as advanced as most European countries in developing soccer talent. There’s a deficit of player talent – the best US athletes play other sports [basketball, football, baseball]. There’s also a deficit of coaching talent.So, if you are an American and your Dad is a soccer coach AND you can ply your trade in Italy, you would be making an irrational decision to play for the U.S. You would not have the same opportunities to develop your talent, and you would limit your future earning potential as a professional soccer player.Giuseppe Rossi did the only reasonable thing for a guy who has talent.His strategy is working since at 18, he already showed that he is more developed than any of the current players on the US MNT for two reasons: 1) he’s good enough to be called into the Italian squad and 2) he just scored two goals in a real tournament against the US MNT without too much trouble.

Everyone who is angry at Rossi is clueless!!!And knows nothing about football.It has nothing to do if you were born here or not.Rossi is a real italian footballplayer!He was born with soccer as a kid,and did not start playing when he entered college.Just like other masters do.He was born with it ,started early as a kid ,and knows the smooth moves and turns.If you are a master on the field ,meaning;you can kick with a left and right foot,and you can dance with the ball you are a topplayer.Topplayers do not play for amateurs.Let me repeat ;Topplayers dont play for beginners.America is OK now ,but they are not agressive and tigers on the field yet.The masters on the field dont have sex with the ball,they make love with the ball on the field!Not because he was born here one thinks he has to play for the us.He choose to play with a team that was born and raised with a football.A good player did not start at 17,but 6 years old you can see kids punish the ball in other countries.they start early.Every 3th world country has kids playing in alleys ,with no shoes ,no shirts ect.This is a hardcore sport.Brazilian players were chosen from fields.Some of them never went to college.To understand football you have to be born in a football country.If the US team had brazilian players in it of course he would jump and play for the US.But the us has american players who did not grow up with football.They are not hungry for the ball.The italian team is a strong team,all of them.Footballplayers make millions and millions because of their footwork and art on the field.The dutch ,the english,spain ,mexico ,brazil,germany ect,these are the topplayers.Also argentina, en Ghana.Footballplayers dont retire,they play untill it is time to go.Brazil had a dokter playing in the team in 1987,dr.Socrates.Diego Maradonna played in so many worldcups.Because they are the masters on the field they are needed.Kaka makes 92 mil. a year.Football is a feeling,a sensation,drama,and the hungre in the eyes of the players.Football is hard because you move the ball with your feet alone ,thats why we get only 1 goal sometimes.American football is being played with the hand,thats why they have so many goals.Because I grew up in a football country I know what it means.We are fanatics about it,passionate, and crazy.If we dont agree we beat up the referee afterwards.In america it is a different thing and a new thing.Rossi will always play for Italy because they got his back.All the italian players are suave on the field.They are all good! And if the us had a dream team Iam sure he would join them.But that is not…… a dream team.He does not want to play with turtles,he choose to play with tigers.Why everyone is upset is the fact that they know nothing about soccer.knock ,knock,Rossi played for spain too,but the italians did not scold him for that.And Ronaldo from brazil played for Manchester England,and the brazilians did not get beserk.Beckam came to america and the english did not scold him.Thats how much you know about soccer!Americans should cheer for mexico when it plays ,but they dont,because they have no clue that mexico is the only country together withAMERICA.They dont know that the worldcup is to find which continent will take the cup.Instead of cheering for mexico so that the cup could get in north america ,they would cheer Italy from Europe.Italy wants to get the cup for europe,and mexico wants to get the cup for north america.Even if Rossi plays for the us,he would not get a goal in because he would be the only one running around.Everyone in the team has to be a tigre.Not one only.If the US was that good ,dont you think players from around the world would leave their post to play for america.Have you see them running to the states to play?No !So quit bugging Rossi because you are clueless.Does not matter if he was born here,he grew up with soccer as a child.Do you see other countries running to the US to buy US players?It is the other side around.Soccerplayers are hot cakes abroad!When they arive at the Hotel,they get smuggeled in because of the fans.Have you seen that here with the team.They end up in 3 different hotels before they can have a break.They are superstars abroad.Even at training women will line up to see them .Make no mistake soccer is played and seen by billions…..not…..millions.I mean billions around the world.Thats how big the sport is abroad.If Kaka or Maradonna enter a country everybody knows them.Even if they go to a little place like Marocco.But do the same with a baseball superstar ,nobody will know him,because soccer is what they know.Kaka would not be able to walk in africa.Rossi can walk around in america .he cannot do it in italy or somewhere else not being reckonized.If you really want to see a superstar in the future just start playing very early in a neighborhood with foreigners.You dont need a special shirt or special shoe.All you need is the love of the sport.And if you are expose to it very early on with the right foreign players,like mexicans,haitiens,jamaicans ect,you will then learn from them.Brazilians dont have soccermoms,these kids learn it on their own,with passion and love.Instead of getting angry at Rossi learn about soccer before you open your mouth.I hope you know that Beckam is english and his fans did not scold him for coming here.Learn something about the footballworld then open your mouth.

this comment is directed to the person who posted the last message, are you drunk?

Posted by adam maidwell | Report as abusive

This arrogant British author can shove it. I am sorry ROSSI PLAYED IN THE US. It is not as if he turned 13 and started playing. He played in the U.S. youth soccer system – where do you think the soccer mom concept came from. He is a NJ boy with immigrant parents – hardly unique in the US – and he decided not to play for the USA. Why should US fans not rip him? True mls and us player development could be better but the last graph exposes this writer as an anti-American hack. Anonymous and Lack of flair? In the last 20 years we have gone from a side that couldn’t qualify to the world cup – to a side that has dominated its region (owns Mexico), made the quarterfinals of the world cup – as far as England has gone – and is developing quality talent – Jozy Altidore villareal as the prime example. And if Rossi chose England – it is not as if he wouldn’t help solve the English striker problem. He is world class – we want him, he rejected us for Italy, he made a decision fine. But as fans, it is not as if we should respect him for it.

Posted by dc spur | Report as abusive

dc spur i understand your point as to why shouldnt you give him some stick because over here in the premier league there has been numerous occasions where people have left one great rival for another just a few miles down the road, slightly closer than the distance between the us and italy mind you, for example sol campbell left tottenham for great rivals arsenal and even tho hes moved on since then he still gets serious racial abuse from the tottenham fans, this is unacceptable in the modern game but i think it kind of puts into perspective how small a meaning this really has that rossi of an italian descent has decided to play for his families country and happened to score twice against the usa in a ‘friendly’ international competition, yeah the us has come along in the last few years both within your leagues and on the international side but given the choice to play between world champs and a team thats probably gotten about as good as they will get i think i know wat most people would choose, despite the fact most people wouldnt put rossi anyhwere near world class as yet. and i am aware you beat egypt in the last game and are through to the semi final, im sure spain will prove a huge test for you so good luck. (oh and ps we have actually won the world cup in 66′ and got the the semi finals in 1990 so im not sure where “quater finals as far as england has got” came from)

Posted by adam maidwell | Report as abusive

Adam – you make a good comparison. Of course anyone going over the line in taunting Rossi (or anyone else) is unacceptable. However, I think your notion that this is “about as good as they will get” is absurd. 20 years ago it was a miracle if we beat Trinidad. Now we are upset if we don’t preform well against the top sides. The US has made tremendous strides and will continue to improve as the league expands and more kids of the soccer mom generation come of age. Also as far as the England world cup point – I meant over the last two decades – the U.S. has also made a world cup semifinal in 1950, after beating England 1-0.

Posted by dc spur | Report as abusive

DC, i fully appreciate how far that the usa team has come in the last few decades, especially as i have seen some of your most recent better players playing for my club team fulham fc, players such as carlos bocanegra, kasey keller, eddie johnson, clint dempsey (who i personally believe is your best player) and of course the legend that is sir brian mcbride, but my point simply comes down to the fact that i believe that even tho football is getting alot bigger in the states it will always be behind the likes of basketball, baseball, american football and i dare say even ice hockey. i do take back the ‘as good as they will get comment’ because if you keep bringing through players like clint dempsey/brian mcbride you can get stronger, but i just feel due to it being your 5th most popular sport you may end up suffering in the long run. (plus if you meant in the last 2 decades we got to the semis in 1990) p.s i wish you the best of luck against spain, usa 1-0 dempsey gets the winner!

Posted by adam maidwell | Report as abusive

Criticizing Giuseppe Rossi is totally uncalled for. Nothing wrong by playing for Italy. That’s where he developed. World class players need to play on world class leagues. Unfortunately were he to play in the MLS it would be a total waste of his talents.

Posted by Pete | Report as abusive

Yes, silly to criticize Rossi. As a US soccer fan, some US players of years past were only US in name, much less than Rossi’s connection to the US.But the US had a good day, perhaps some of the bile of the first two cup matches will dissipate with the win over Spain…

Posted by Tom | Report as abusive

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I really don’t feel its wrong to have some anger towards the kid leaving. He was born here, his parents obviously came to this country to develop a better life, then the second their child becomes an asset they flee back?We Americans see it all the time, we let immigrants come at will, and a lot of the money they make gets funneled right back to other countries.So in that respect, I guess we should be used to it. Its not like we can stop it, or have any right to.As an 7th generation American, it always came across as a bit classless though, as if you’re using us a bit.But that’s kind of your choice. We’re not that free of a country anymore, but at least you are free to do that.But i’m also free to criticize if he does.Nice article Reuters.

Posted by Uncle Sam God Damn | Report as abusive

it would appear that rossi has made his decision to embrace his italian heritage over his american…but he should complete this transition by renouncing his american citizenship.

Posted by bryan | Report as abusive

>Criticism of this nice kid is out of all proportion.<

Yes, he is a nice kid. Humble, unassuming, unpretentious.

We Americans need to focus our energies on developing talent. Even at the elite levels of u14+, with fulltime paid coaches, the player development is abysmal. I cringe in dismay every time I hear a hack yell at a mid-fielder, "blast it downfield!"

It will take another generation before the US National Team is worthy of a World Cup semifinal. Hope I'm wrong.

R

Posted by rfoil | Report as abusive

my son has had a dream since he was 6 when I grow up I want to make a goal for the gold and hear the cheers U.S.A. U.S.A. well he is now 17 and plays for two teams high school and local . and yes has been looked at but was advised by his coach soccer is not that popular here in us -florida he should look at going abroad with his talent and speed and moves the football coach said he should be a runningback or a field goalkicker football more popular here for college but his heart and passion is and always been soccer he has played since he was four sad not only shattered his dream but broke my heart as well than I saw request for euro players and mexican to play in usa for high school etc… what is wrong with finding talent in your own back yard I buy american and my son is proud to be and play for america please help college is so in the near future.. wish for the U.S.A. olympics….how can one make this dream come true here athome florida U.S.A. thanks

Posted by MSRISKYMOON | Report as abusive

I’ve seen a Rossi interview, and he’s got an American accent(ish) but didn’t seem too comfortable speaking English. He has Italian parents, and lived in Italy, and has never represented the US at any level… So why should he have been treated badly for choosing a better team which he’s 100% legitimate for?
Equally, Stuart Holden plays for the US, despite being born in Scotland and having Scottish parents… Don’t see them all getting temperamental…

I appreciate this is years old haha :)

Posted by JoeThomas | Report as abusive

[...] U.S. has been the benefactor of such switches, its losses to this point are probably greater (see: Guiseppe Rossi and Neven Subotic). He is flirting with disaster once again here by not calling Omar Gonzalez [...]