Being a soccer dad...
Father's day is wrapped up for this year. I took it off, did nothing other than watching World Cup games. We went out for a big breakfast and again for dinner but not until Argentina and Messi were done for the day.
One of the many great things about being a dad is exposing and hopefully passing your passions onto your kids. My daughter went to her first soccer game when she was around a month old. Mom was worried the noise and the crowd would freak her out but she seemed to love it. Her relationship with the Kansas City Wizards/Sporting KC was born.
By the time she was a couple years old she would enjoy dancing with supporters after the match, trying to stay in time with the beat of the drum and sing.
At three she started to have favorite players although for some reason they were picked based on hair and numbers. Nick Garcia was her first. Nick wore number three (she was three) and had long dark hair similar to hers. He was quickly traded and she learned the lesson you can still like players after they leave but never root for them in a game.
Soon she wanted to play the game herself and we found ourselves watching a lot of "herd ball" on cold and wet mornings or hot and dry afternoons with groups of parents who sometimes took it a little too seriously watching their little superstars.
She is now ten and loves to play. There are moments of brilliance and mediocrity, joy and heartbreak. Hours of dedication and practice and sometimes sitting on the bench and sometimes taking time from older girls, it's all part of the game, part of growing up and learning about life. I could not be a prouder dad of her.
Club versus Country
Four years ago during the 2010 World Cup, my daughter was six years old and very inquisitive (that has not changed much). As I already mentioned, she grew up going to Kansas City Wizards games, first at Arrowhead and then at Community America Ballpark and was pretty familiar with the players. She could identify most of the players better than the average fan and was very loyal to her favorites.
The whole national team thing was still a little strange to her. She watched some U.S. games with me when she could but mom was always more particular about bed times than I was.
It seemed to perplex her that we were rooting for a team that had players that played against her Wizards. Landon Donovan and Edson Buddle from the Galaxy, Jonathan Bornstein from Chivas and Robbie Findley from Salt Lake and all those guys who played in Europe meant very little to her then.
She knew I was excited for the World Cup and she was starting to get it by the time games actually started but not totally.
As we watched more matches she started to get into more and more. Unfortunately she had to miss a couple of the matches live because she was at Girl Scout camp. What was mom thinking? Anyway I would tell her about the games when I picked her up and we would talk about that and what she did at camp on the way home.
One of those days she asked the question. It seemed like I had heard a lot of "Club vs Country" talk last World Cup. I do not think she read the soccer forums but somehow she wanted to know.
"Dad, who do you like more, the U.S. or the Wizards?"
Surprised, I answered quickly, "the U.S. honey."
Just as quickly, "Why?"
"I have always been an American; I have not always been a Kansas City fan. The team didn't even exist when I moved here. No matter where I live, I am an American. I will be a U.S. fan wherever I live. The U.S. is bigger and more important than any one city. I was in the Marine Corps to help defend this country, your grandfather was also. I am diehard patriotic and love this country, it's not perfect but it's my country. It just comes down to being an American is more important than where I live in America. I'm an American first." I think this is the short version of my answer to be honest.
"Dad. I'm an American too," she responded a little defiantly.
I somehow felt put in my place and proud at the same time.
My best World Cup Moment Ever
It is probably the same moment for a lot of people, just for a little different reason.
At the last World Cup (and this one) there was basically one big watch party at the Power and Light District in downtown Kansas City. I had been there for the first two matches of group play and talked about how much fun it was to be with thousands of other fans watching at the same time.
My daughter wanted to go and with it being the last game of the group stage I did not know for sure there would be another U.S. game.
I broke her out of camp (mom knew) and we headed down to watch with a few thousand other people. We managed to get into Johnny's Tavern where the American Outlaw's and a lot of friend were. I even managed to get a table in safe spot for a six year old to watch from but the amount of people in there was a little intimidating for her. We went into the courtyard area to watch at halftime and found a place standing on the stairs. It was still crowded but not nearly as bad as it was inside.
We found a spot on the stairs to one side so she could see over the people standing. She was one step above me so she could see a little better and I could keep her from falling down the stairs if needed.
Everyone reading this probably knows how the game went, the U.S. needed a goal and Landon Donovan scored. Simple and easy to write but the tension at the time was incredible. When that ball went in and the whole place erupted, she jumped so high I caught her in mid-air. She was screaming and cheering and if there had ever been any doubt, it was erased. A life-long U.S. fan was born.
You can see here the reaction from around the country, in Johnny's and the reaction in the courtyard where we were. We are on the stairs you can see to the left.
I did take her back to camp that day and despite my best efforts, we both had a "slight" odor of beer on us from the celebratory beers going in the air. Thankfully they did not call Child Services on me but I did receive some looks.
It's my favorite World Cup moment not just because the U.S. advanced but because it was a moment that I think we will both always remember. A love for the U.S. and soccer that was ignited and shared between us (and a few thousand close friends). Since that day, she wants to watch every possible U.S. game. The men or the women, it makes no difference.
Hopefully the U.S. surprises this year and does better than expected. There are lots of other dads that need to share the next "moment" with their kids.