Inside the clubhouse of RWB Adria, a team formed by Croatian immigrants to Chicago in 1959 who won the National Amateur Cup in 2011 and reached the final again in 2012. In issue one of XI Quarterly, Chicago-based photographer Marty Groark looks at the club’s diverse roots in the community.
In issue one of XI, Andrew Guest looks at the “immigrant’s game” in the U.S. He begins by discussing the day long ago that he saw “a lanky midfielder with sleepy eyes who ghosted around the patchy mud with a grace and precision more suited to La Liga than an American high school game. I lost track of how many goals he scored that day, and when I asked Jean-Marie about him after the game he told me: “He’s from Africa or Congo or somewhere—and his name is Jean-Marie too! But he goes by Danny.”
Danny’s last name was Mwanga, and Andrew talks to the Portland Timbers forward as he explores the reasons for the continued success of immigrants in American soccer.
Photo credit: Craig Mitchelldyer/Portland Timbers
An extract below of Andrew Guest’s XI issue one essay, Making it in America: Analyzing the Immigrant’s Game, explains the question he explores in depth: why do immigrant families still have massively disproportionate success in American soccer?
In the popular imagination, soccer has only gradually become “American.” The legendary 1950 US World Cup team, for example, beat England on a diving header by Joe Gaetjens—who was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and later played for Haiti against Mexico in a World Cup qualifier. But even in 1950, only six of the seventeen players on the US roster were born abroad, equal to the number born in St. Louis. Forty-four years later, at the 1994 World Cup hosted by the US, the American roster had a nearly identical ratio of foreign-born: 1 out of 3.
So when I first looked at the U.S. roster for the 2010 World Cup I was interested to find only two of the players on the final thirty-man roster were born abroad: Stuart Holden was born in Scotland and Benny Feilhaber was born in Brazil, with both moving to the US by age 10. But then, when I tracked down their family histories, it turned out that at least 60 percent (or 18 of players for which I could find the relevant information) had at least one parent who was born abroad. In contrast, only around 20 percent of all young Americans have at least one parent born abroad. If the World Cup team is any indication, immigrant families still have massively disproportionate success in American soccer.
While this does imply that soccer is still something of an “immigrant’s game,” I think there is also something more complicated going on, something that social scientists call “the immigrant paradox” or “the immigrant advantage.”
For issue #1 of XI, Andrew Guest is writing about the immigrant paradox, asking why it is that immigrants in the United States often do better in soccer than do non-immigrants. Here he talks about his article, titled “How to Make it in America.”
Another article scan from Soccer America, dated March 13th 1973. This one supports the thesis XI co-editor David Keyes posted earlier today regarding the project to Americanize soccer in the U.S. in the 1960s and 1970s, this time in the professional arena.
On the XI blog, David Keyes looks at the role youth soccer organization the AYSO played in the “Americanization” of the sport, as its founders in the 1960s look to overcome the “ethnic slurs” put on the game in the U.S. (as they saw it).