So the Soccer World Cup is going on in Russia right now. Soccer was the very first sport I ever played, although I think it is a very bold stretch to describe what I actually did as playing. So let me rephrase that. Soccer was the very first sport that I sat on the bench and watched my classmates play. I was the Varsity water boy and the Junior Varsity left wing that no one will ever pass to. My only redeeming skill was that I had absolutely no fear in taking out much bigger players than myself. This is why I am much better suited to rugby. One of my favourite sayings is that soccer is a game of 90 minutes of pretending you are hurt, and rugby is a game of 80 minutes of pretending that you aren't. Don't let me get on a rugby tangent, because if I do, I'll forget what this whole post was supposed to be about. Back to soccer!
I appreciate soccer. I think living in Barcelona definitely helped with that. It's hard not to enjoy a sport that causes the whole damn city to riot whenever a goal is scored. They do love their team, and for good reason -- they are one of the greatest football clubs in the world. One of my favourite players, Lionel Messi, is the star player for Barcelona. He also captains the Argentina national team. For some odd reason, come World Cup time, Messi seems to disappear and Argentina's fortunes at the most important tournament in world soccer have not been enriching. This is a weird World Cup in that almost every single team I enjoy watching is out, with the exception of England. USA - didn't even qualify. Germany - knocked out by South Korea (YEAH!!!!!!!), South Korea - knocked out by the Mexicans, Mexico - knocked out by Brazil, Argentina - knocked out by France, Spain - knocked out by Russia, Japan - knocked out by Belgium.
Chinese teams had a pretty positive run at this World Cup, and I want to talk about a certain group of Chinese that really stood out - the Japanese. I was tempted to talk about the historic loss that Germany had to another group of Chinese - the South Koreans, because those are my biological people group after all and what they did was simply stunning, the first Chinese team to ever beat Germany. But, no, that is not what I want to talk about.
I want to talk about the pride I had in being remotely associated with the Chinese team from Japan and their fans for what they did at this World Cup. There have been countless articles describing in absolute stunned astonishment at what the fans do after each game. Even after the devastating loss to Belgium, the fans (some weeping) picked up their own trash. And other people's trash. They effectively did the job of the maintenance staff, stuffing large plastic bags worth of rubbish left over from non-Chinese/Japanese spectators. The locker room after the game was left completely spotless with a sign in Russian simply saying "Thank You."
We are in a remarkably uncivil here in the US. People are equally rude and awful in many other parts of the world. I think what was so remarkable for the reporters and fellow fans at the World Cup was to watch an entire national/ethnic group behave in a way that has become completely alien to most other societies. I do not know of another culture that teaches the respect and values to comprehensively clean up after themselves and others in such a setting. Usually one of the worst things you can do is to read the comment section of online articles. Trolls feel very comfortable typing things they would never have the balls to say in person. However, when I read through the 3,293 comments about how tidy the locker room was, I actually gave up looking for the first negative comment or mention of Obama. I couldn't find one. NOT A SINGLE ONE. It was all uniformly positive. (Ok, to be honest, I got to about 600 comments before I realized I couldn't spend all night reading every single comment for the sake of one claim on a this post and I scanned the rest). I cannot remember another article that was this uniformly positive.
Now Japan doesn't get a free pass since they basically jizzed all over Korea and other territories they conquered during WWII, but they have made going to war unconstitutional now. Hopefully this means the days of of horrific war crimes are behind them and they can go back to what they seem to do best -- being terrific Chinese role models for the rest of the world.
On a side note, I have many Hispanic friends. My nickname playing soccer later with them was always the same: Chino - Spanish for Chinese. I heard it living in Spain, and the majority of Mexicans when meeting an Asian will refer to them as Chino as well. As we are about to enter a trade war with China, I think it is very important that every other ethnicity - white, Hispanic, black - realize that we aren't all fucking Chinese! Unless the US goes to war with North Korea. In which case, yes, I am very Chinese.