Portugal shocked the World Cup on Sunday when it scored in the final moments of stoppage time to salvage a draw with the United States and avoid elimination from the tournament. While most soccer fans in the U.S. were frustrated when superstar Cristiano Ronaldo crossed to Silvestre Varela for the equalizing goal, one athlete making his own big news this week found great joy in the moment.
Kansas center and highly touted NBA draft prospect Joel Embiid, a native of Cameroon who has lived in the United States since the summer of 2012, tweeted congratulations to the Portugal captain and Real Madrid star:
Embiid, who went from probable No. 1 overall pick of the Cleveland Cavaliers in Thursday's NBA draft to a major risk after suffering a stress fracture in his right foot, was celebrating a happy moment during what's been a tough week. Not surprisingly, an athlete known primarily for his achievements in NCAA basketball and his potential impact in the NBA received a lot of criticism for celebrating a less-than-ideal outcome for the United States, with many people using his foot injury as ammunition:
@JoelEmbiid if it wasn't for the USA you'd still be living in a third world country, show some respect.— Rich Homie John (@Johnsiebels) June 23, 2014
It is hard to fault Embiid too much for his comment. He's not a U.S. citizen, counts himself as a Real Madrid fan and only really needed to root for the U.S. if we believe that going to two years of high school in Florida and making a name for himself at Kansas obligates him to bleed red, white and blue. I suppose there's an argument for such a position, but it also seems unfair and wildly paternalistic, as if he had no prior life experiences or rooting interests before moving to the country. The kid should be able to support whichever teams and players he likes.
To Embiid's credit, he hasn't felt the need to apologize for praising Ronaldo. Maybe that's because at least a few people have agreed with his tweet:
Or, more likely, he's focused on his fate in Thursday's draft. Whatever happens, at least he can avoid thinking about Cameroon's performance in this World Cup. Its play has been much more offensive than an innocent comment supporting a U.S. opponent.
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