There seems to be a strong current of dislike for Giuseppe Rossi lately. You probably know a little bit about him. He was born in Jersey, sent to Italy at 13, and became a pretty darn good footballer while he was there. Although he had the opportunity to play for the U.S., he elected to star for Italy instead. Oh, and half of his face was on the cover of ESPN the Magazine last month.
You probably also read that earlier this week, he was cut from Italy's 23-man World Cup roster. Naturally, the haters came out in full force.
Personally, I had no problem with Rossi's decision to begin with. Even in the wake of his release from the roster, I still respect it, although there's no doubt he probably questions it right now. He's a talented footballer who elevated his game to the point in which he could make such a decision. His options were the U.S. and Italy. He chose Italy.
Who could blame him? Every kid that plays soccer dreams of winning the World Cup someday. I suspect young Giuseppe dreamt of the same. He grew up in two different countries. Yet, he honed his skills within the perimeter of a soccer superpower, and as a result, became a better soccer player. So wasn't it logical to select the country that afforded you greater challenges? I may be going on a limb here, but I would hazard a guess that the competition within UEFA is slightly better than that found in CONCACAF.
And I know that stung for alot of us, especially after he put those pair of shots past Tim Howard at the Confed Cup last summer. But the decision was no different than the ones Benny Feilhaber and Stuart Holden made. No different than Earnie Stewart picking the U.S. over Holland, or Thomas Dooley siding with the States over Germany. Heck, Jermaine Jones became an overnight sensation when he chose the U.S. over Germany, even though he's already been capped by Germany. And yet, we applauded their efforts.
America is a funny place sometimes. We cry out for freedom in our everyday lives. Our constitution was created to ensure basic freedoms. Yet, when a supremely-talented American soccer player excercises his freedom and opts for an unpopular choice, he might as well be Benedict Arnold in boots. How dare he take his talent to another country, even if it is his family's homeland.
I guess I know why. It's easy to live in a "what if?" world. What if the gifted Rossi accepted Bruce Arena's invitation to play for the Yanks in 2006? What if his adolescence was spent here in States? What if he didn't have the talent to play for Italy's U-16s and U-21s? What if the moon was made of cheese?
"What if?" worlds are fun to live in. They offer limitless possibilities. Pigs can fly, horses can talk, and John Locke can walk. But football careers don't transpire in "what if?" worlds. They take permanent residence in the "what is" world. Giuseppe Rossi chose Italy. And the potshots taken at him, then and now, are simply the products of those bitter folk who'd rather live in these "what if?" worlds.