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Flags Have Us All A-Flutter
By MICHELE MANDEL, TORONTO SUN
David Henriques proudly supports four countries with flags flapping from his Jeep. (Veronica Henri/Sun)
Munich, Germany, June 18, 2006 – It's a simmering flag flap that boils just under the surface of this city's World Cup fever.
Cars throughout the GTA are waving the flags of their native lands represented at the international soccer championship. A patchwork of divided loyalties, neighborhoods are suddenly defined by the colors flapping proudly from their cars -- Portugal along Dundas St. W., Italy on College St., Poland on Roncesvalles, Iran on Yonge St. north of Hwy. 7 -- and on it goes in the new civic pastime of name that flag.
There's probably no other place in the world with such a wide cultural diversity that it can claim sons and daughters from all 32 nations competing in the Cup.
"We're unique in that way and I'm very proud of it," Mayor David Miller has said. "That's such a wonderful thing about our city."
'IT'S AN INSULT TO ME'
But while it's all warm and fuzzy to most -- it's driving others up a flagpole.
"Whenever an overseas team wins, these Canadian residents tumble and stagger out into the streets waving their foreign flags in the faces of us native-born Canadians," J. Beverly Ewen recently wrote to the Sun's sports mailbag.
"It's an insult to me and others like me. The problem is that whenever a foreign team comes to play a Canadian team, these people cheer for the foreign team. Unbelievable ... I am proud to poop on their parade."
Mark Ritter writes that he feels "more and more like the Grinch everyday. I'd like to creep around the GTA at night and steal all the flags, car horns and assorted World Cup paraphernalia. Oh I'd give it all back, once the World Cup was over."
Len Pietrow is another one who feels bah humbug about his multicultural neighbors' soccer fever. "I proudly display Canadian flags more so during World Cup time to remind everyone where they now live."
As their patience for the World Cup runneth over, they seem to be questioning the loyalty of these soccer-mad fans. In Canada's largest city, they wonder, where has the Maple Leaf gone?
A parking lot in the heart of Little Portugal at Ossington and Dundas seems an appropriate place to pose the controversial question. Almost every vehicle is sporting a flag of some kind -- naturally, most are from Portugal, some from the Azores and Brazil and even one from Angola.
Jonas Mabuzo is a 32-year-old student who has two Angolan flags flying from his white SUV. "Canada is my country," says the citizen of six years as he rushes off to watch Angola play to a draw with Mexico, "but Angola is my back home country."
As president of this month's Portugal Week festivities, it's not surprising that Jose Eustaquio has the red and green of Portugal flapping from two windows of his truck. He makes no apology for not hoisting the Maple Leaf as well.
"We have this wonderful gift," he explains eloquently in between greeting friends on the street. "Many of us came from different origins to make Canada our home here and truly there's no better place to live.
"The beauty of this country is that you can celebrate your country of origin in situations like this every four years and forget the distance from your heritage. I'm proud of where we come from and proud of where we live."
Without Canada in the tournament, there's no question of divided loyalties. But what if, miracles of miracles, Canada were to meet Portugal in a World Cup one day?
"Then I'd fly the Canadian flag as well," laughs Eustaquio, 42, "but it would be tough to say what my allegiance would be if they played against each other."
On Dhaqane Yusuf's tow truck, though, only the Maple Leaf flutters proudly. "Of course," he says. "I've been here longer than I was there. I'm Canadian with Somaliland roots."
'THEY'RE SOLD OUT'
His native land is a tiny republic in the northwest part of Somalia not recognized by other nations and certainly not competing at the Cup. But no matter -- it still has a flag of its own and Yusuf would be flying it alongside his Maple Leaf. "But they're sold out," says the 34-year-old. "I guess they don't make very many."
From afar we spot a Jeep sporting the tiny flags of not one, not two, but four nations. Photographer Veronica Henri gives chase through the city until we finally catch up and pull the poor guy over in High Park.
"My dad is from France, my mom is from Portugal, my fiancée is Italian and although Canada isn't in it, I'm a proud Canadian," explains David Henriques, 39. "I've had people call me the United Nations of the World Cup."
He's a fan of showing your multicultural heritage, but it bugs him that so few soccer fans are waving the Maple Leaf as well -- even if Canada is not in the competition.
"My dad's got three flags at the cottage: Canada is the highest in the middle, with Portugal and France on either side. That's how it should be," insists Henriques.
"Their pride in their own country is great but they have to remember this is their home now, too."
My youngest son doesn't understand the debate. "We suck at soccer," says my 12-year-old, who is rooting for Brazil despite absolutely no ethnic connection to the country -- but that he likes to win. "We didn't qualify for the World Cup so why should anyone fly our flag?"
It's just a game, not a question of misplaced patriotism. So take a downer, we say to the cranky among us. And join the party.
Source: TORONTO SUN