This World Cup, I've been amazed at how emotionally involved I've become when I rarely watch, and certainly don't participate in, sports. So when I woke up yesterday with that sort of excitement that accompanies change, I also recognized a quickly sinking feeling that told me the Dutch's winning streak was over. Nonetheless, I went forward showing off the student medical badge, in which I had placed two tiny orange kalanchoe flowers, because I had nothing remotely orange/professional to wear. Hours later, at my school's teaching clinic, I became slightly weepy at the news that Holland did, in fact, lose to Argentina in a shoot out (2:4). With all this welling up, I had to ask myself why do I care?
Despite what would have been monumental if the Dutch had advanced to the finals this Sunday, sparking flashbacks to WWII history (or more recently the 1974 World Cup where the Dutch did play and lose to Germany), I could come up with at least one reason for this attachment:
Cultural roots are of the utmost importance to me. With a mother born and raised in Rotterdam, I remember visiting Holland every three-four years. Though it has been over a decade since I've visited Europe, I still have that memory of stepping off the plane in Schiphol--how everything hits me at once: the announcements streaming in this language, that to me, is so melodic and welcoming, the stark cleanliness of even the airport bathrooms, and then the smell of something near-perfect, whether it be coffee or a pastry teaming with butter, the site of all the Omas and Opas (usually walking with their hands clasped behind their backs as though they are ready at any minute to push off on a bank of ice for the Eleven City Tour or Elfstedentocht, which my Opa not only did, but trained for while participating in the Resistance in WWII).
And although I am not entirely clear on the reasons why India hasn't appeared in the World Cup, it seems they may have qualified at least once due to the forfeit of another, I know that I would be equally moved to root for them and somewhat conflicted if they ever advanced to play Holland.
Though I was born in Jersey (how more American can you get?) I maintain I could have easily fallen out of my mother's womb into the land of dropjes and ice skates. And I recall that day my parents kept us home from school, I was nine +/- a year, so that we could go with them to court to watch them naturalize (a word that seems odd even now). The Virginia court was heavy that day, and though there was so much jargon that I must not have understood I felt the weight of this decision, along with a sense of conflict. Dual citizenship wasn't possible, so they traded in their motherlands to be American for us--to be the American family of four. And while I do embrace the Pacific Northwest as home, I consider myself a first generation American which I try, in vain, to explain doesn't equate American--not completely.
So how does this relate to the World Cup? It's that sense of pride that I don't just ascribe to an idea, but I feel as a visceral connection to a country that in essence feels like part of the homeland. When I stumble into a pub that just happens to be the designated spot for rooting for Holland, a literal House of Orange with standing room only, I feel that euphoria that I can only liken to that sense of falling deeply for someone.. And when they scored, if you had taken my cortisol I'm sure it would have been through the roof. So, sub country for human being and add me to approximate that feeling of falling and subtract Saturday's game, because that--dear friends, feels humiliating.
Natasha Kochicheril Moni is a writer and a licensed naturopath in WA State. Enjoying this blog? Feel free to put a little coffee in Natasha's cup, right here.