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"Sport is war minus the shooting."

Our story is about a valiant hero, a professional sports/video games/pogosticking champion who is preparing or going to a major tournament for his preferred skill. Normally, these tournaments are contained entirely within the main character's country, as in there are no foreigners competing.

But for this special episode/movie, there is a great threat on the horizon ... there is a foreigner rival who might just be even better than the hero, if not possibly the best in the whole world!

For some reason, this coincidental clash of titans from across the globe always seems to turn into a showdown between the two representative countries. For example: Who is better, America's best player or Japan's best player? It's implied that whoever wins proves that their country is better as a whole, not just at this particular sport.

Used in different mediums for different reasons. Often used patriotically, because the main character lives in your country, and they win! Sometimes used to introduce a new archnemesis and spice up the show's competitors. This is probably a trope because it tends to happen in Real Life.

Examples of International Showdown by Proxy include:


Anime

  • Hajime no Ippo: The match of Takamura against Bryan Hawk for the world title. It takes place in a Japanese boxing hall, so basically the entire audience is rooting for Takamura. It helps that Bryan Hawk is blatantly racist against the "weak" Japanese.
  • The World Youth Cup arc in Eyeshield 21.
  • G Gundam is basically summed up with this trope, plus with earth as the battlefield and the rest of the population in space, the winner would literally be the strongest, and only, person on Earth.
    • In fact the Gundam Fight was created to provide a (comparatively) peaceful alternative to war. The country whose representative wins the fight gets to rule over all the colonies for the next four years.
  • The Oda Nobunaga Tournament in Yaiba includes participants from all over the world, and Yaiba even fought a European Knight. However it ended up with only Japanese Finalists.
  • Samurai Champloo gleefully lampoons this trope in the episode "Baseball Blues", in which a group of Japanese peasants play a baseball game against a crew of brutish Americans, and the fate of Edo Era Japan hangs in the balance over the outcome. Naturally this is all played out within Champloo's typically anachronistic, exaggerated idiom. The most patriotic of the Japanese players are picked off in comical ways, while only Mugen (A thug with no patriotic fervour whatsoever) saves the country single handedly.
  • The team of foreigners in Prince of Tennis (the ones who show up at Nationals, not the team from the Junior Senbatsu arc of the anime). Their playstyle is extremely violent, and they openly ridicule the Japanese team they play against, and Japanese tennis in general. Of course, the Japanese team was losing on purpose, and they win by a large margin once they begin playing seriously. Then they mock the foreigners' arrogance... in (equally broken) English.
  • The world tournament series of the anime Medabots contains a truly stunning amount of cultural clichés (to be fair Team Japan don't get off lightly either) but the worst by far were Team France, who all sported twirly moustaches, spoke in exaggerated French accents and crept around in black cloaks lying and cheating their way to victory. This was so blatant it might possibly be considered a parody of the trope.
    • Also incredibly stereotyped were the Canadians who sported at least four layers of snow gear and Medabots designed specifically for a snowy winter arena. They also unknowingly added "Eh?" to the end of sentences and used "aboot". And a blizzard was considered a "light dusting".
      • Though one could easily argue that would be the dub production company taking pot shots at themselves.


Comic Books

  • Iron Man's first encounter with Dirty Communist villain the Titanium Man was in the context of a televised battle on neutral territory agreed upon by the U.S. and the Soviet Union.
  • In an early Judge Dredd story, a war between Mega-City One and a Sov-controlled East-Meg One is fought by fielding small four-man teams from each Mega-City against one another in an Olympics-style competition...to the death.


Film


Live Action TV

  • Part of the plot for the latest revamp of I Spy, where American Heavyweight champion boxer Kelly Robinson decides to take on "European Champion" Cedric Mills, who's generically Eastern European.
  • On Head of the Class when the Headsters took on a Soviet team in a trivia quiz an academic meet, both when the Soviets came to the US and later when the Class went to Moscow.

 Dr. Samuels: After today, the Red Menace will have red faces.

Mr. Moore: Why don't we just nuke 'em and forget it?


Professional Wrestling


Theatre


Webcomics


Real Life

  • Soccer is notorious for rioting and fights breaking out at games. Disputed matches between countries where both the sport is extremely popular and national feelings run high have lead to hundreds of deaths, especially in Latin America.
    • Actually, in 69 a real WAR started after an heated game of soccer.
  • This happened in real life with Super Smash Brothers at a huge tournament called Genesis, where the best North American player (and up until that point generally considered best player in the world) came one hit away from losing the grand finals to Europe's best player. Watching the matches, it comes down to a lot of cheering on both sides for their respective player/country.
  • The so-called "Miracle on Ice", both in Real Life and the movie they made about it.
  • The World Cup.
  • The Olympic Games.
  • The infamous "Blood in the Water" polo match between Hungary and the USSR. Right on the heels of a Soviet invasion to put down a rebellion, the game degenerated into one of the most violent and emotional sporting events of the time.
  • Any major gaming tournament, such as Evolution 2K. It's most obvious in 2D FightingGames, where the mindset can usually be broken down to "Daigo Umehara (Japan) vs Justin Wong (USA)".
  • Bobby Fischer vs. Boris Spasky in Iceland in 1972. Pity Bobby was insane and Spasky was not a serious communist party member. (Unlike Karpov who took over after Bobby went into hiding.)
    • But Fischer's behavior mars the symbolism. This disciplined and obviously brilliant player falls to pieces when dealing with reality, throws tantrums like a child, breaks agreements, and makes arbitrary demands. Not a great, confident mind, but a tragically helpless victim torn by acute anxiety.
      —(Russian émigré and author Ayn Rand)
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