What is it about small nations?

Let’s continue for just a few seconds with the World Cup theme: and how the ‘small’ footballing nations (I say small in quotation marks, because by no stretch of the imagination can the US or Australia be considered small nations other than in footballing history) have upset the established giants of this tournament.  How is that possible?  Have all the favourites become too complacent?

Dejected German fans after match with Serbia

One of my friends suggested, somewhat cynically, that players from lesser-known countries have to demonstrate their skills so they can get a lucrative contract with a club abroad.  That is true, but it’s part of the bigger picture, namely that the ‘underdogs’ have little to lose and always something to prove.

This holds true outside the world of football, of course.  If you come from a small nation like the Netherlands or Romania, and no one can speak your language, you take great pride in the fact that you are able to speak several.  If you are a Chinese student in the US, you work doubly hard to prove that you are equal or better than the Americans.  You delight in confounding expectations and stereotypes.  ‘Think I am lazy or corrupt or unpunctual because I am Italian or Greek or Lebanese (insert adjectives and country names as you see fit)?  Well, that will show you, huh!’

You have a chip on your shoulder.  In a good way.  And it’s easier to be agile and surprising when nobody sees you coming.  Because sometimes the reassuring ‘big nation’ in your background is a lumbering elephant that brings with it overwhelming expectations and knocks down trees.

Have you ever felt the ‘big nation’ or ‘small nation’ presence in your life?  Have you tried to confound expectations?  Share your experiences here, I’d love to hear them.

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