Watching sport as an expat: does your heart expand with every country you live in?

When I was pregnant for the second time, I went through that thought process that I suspect every parent goes through: how am I going to love this one as much as my first? How will I find room in my heart for another? And of course, when the new baby comes along you do – because, as the saying goes, your heart expands.

For me, it’s like this with the countries that I have lived in. Every time I go somewhere new, my heart grows and I let it in.

Now don’t get me wrong, I have never loved everything about any of the places I have lived. Whether it be the food, the weather, the people, the shops – there is always something that I grouch about. But I know that deep down I still have a huge affection for each place because whenever there is a major sporting event, I find myself cheering on the athletes from Jamaica, Pakistan, the Philippines, St Lucia….and now, South Africa.

As a huge lover of athletics, this tends to be the Olympics or (as it is at the moment), the World Athletics. I am lucky in that, having lived in Jamaica, I get to do quite a lot of cheering. Usain Bolt beating Justin Gaitlin in the 100m last weekend was one of the highlights of my watching career. Almost up there with Mo winning an Olympic gold in London, or seeing Jessica Ennis-Hill finish first in the Heptathalon just one year after having a baby…

Usain_Bolt_Olympics_Celebration

But I also enjoy sportsmen and women doing well in the more obscure events: boxing, weightlifting, hockey….it doesn’t matter what it is, I feel pride in my once-adopted countries whatever the sport. Yesterday, for example, I watched the highlights of the World Athletics from the previous day and found myself willing on the South African runners in the 400m hurdles. And these are runners I have previously never even noticed. It doesn’t matter if I have been cursing all things South African moments before (which I actually haven’t been – so far, I have found very little to dislike about this country…), as soon as those athletes hit the track/pitch/pool, I am back in love with my new home.

It probably helps that most of the places we have lived DON’T feature too much in the Olympics: Jamaica really is the only flag we see raised more than a handful of times. But whenever they do, I’m there, cheering them on. If there is a Brit in the race with them I will them into second place, or at least not to come last. And if they finish first, then I feel national pride like all the people of that country. Even the next best thing counts – I have been enjoying the Caribbean nations doing particularly well in these games. And when they don’t do so well, especially if they are expected to, I feel the pain of the nation. And I will them to get up and try again.

Just like a proud mum!

Do you cheer for your adopted home in sporting events? What about countries you used to live in – do they still have a place in your heart? Or are you loyal to your home country?

Usain Bolt picture courtesy of Richard Giles via Wikimedia Commons

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