Summer reading: Football Dad and the international game

Football Dad unfolded a tatty and sun-bleached map of the world across the kitchen table.

The fine print, in the bottom right of the map, marked its origin: ‘Acme Corporation – Printing and Production, 1987’.

‘Okay, so there’s a few new countries in the world since this map was produced,’ explained Football Dad. ‘There have been a few wars and revolutions and things, so there’s no longer a USSR.’

‘Qatar!’ yelled the Youngest One enthusiastically, thrusting a stubby finger toward the Middle East. ‘There, there, there, on the map! Lots of oil!’

The Eldest One scorned her sister: ‘Geez, you are such a know-it-all.’

‘I pay attention in school,’ shot back the Youngest One. ‘Can’t help it if I am brainier than you.’

‘Stop it,’ interjected Football Mum, a calmness in her voice. ‘Who can show us Portugal on the map?’

‘I believe that’s in Europe – next to France?’ offered the Eldest One.

‘Close, neighbours Spain,’ answered Football Dad, a sweeping motion of his hand across an Iberia dotted with fly pooh and the carcass of a dead spider.

‘It’s quite exciting!’ squealed the Youngest One. ‘An actual world cup in Hamilton!’

Football Dad was quick to point out the facts of the matter: ‘One of several FIFA world cups,’ he explained. ‘They have tournaments for several different age groups, and both genders … this isn’t the really big one, with the men, like Brazil last year. But it’s pretty close. The FIFA U-20 World Cup … that’s a big deal.’

‘So they’re boys?’ queried the Eldest One. ‘Like teenagers? Pimples and not quite shaving every day type guys.’

‘Gifted, wealthy and highly sought-after teenage footballers,’ said Football Dad. ‘They have to be 20 years old or under. They’re superstars and millionaires in the making. Some of them will be signed to big European clubs already.’

‘Manchester United, Liverpool, Barcelona, AC Milan, Werder Bremen …’

The Youngest One blurted out the first European team that came to mind: ‘Scunthorpe FC!’

Football Mum smiled, putting a loving arm around her youngest child: ‘That’s probably a little unlikely. I don’t think Scunthorpe FC are big spenders during the transfer window. Football League One in England isn’t exactly awash with money. But you never know.’

Football Dad was keen to move the football geography class along.

‘Two South American teams,’ he announced, affecting a horrible abomination of a Latin accent. ‘Zey will be from Colombia and Uruguay. Ole!’

The Youngest One pounced at the opportunity to show her academic chops again.

‘There and there,’ she said excitedly, again with the finger. ‘Uruguay wear blue and white and Colombia wear yellow! In Colombia they once shot a man for an own goal in the World Cup – I read that on Wikipedia.’

Football Mum spoke sternly and slowly: ‘A very sad day in football – let’s spare a thought for that player’s family. There was a lot more to that than a simple game or an own goal.’

The Eldest One looked uptight but enthusiastic in equal measure.

‘We’re going to a game, though, right? Here in Hamilton.’

Football Dad could not suppress a foolish grin.

‘I’d say so,’ he said. Reaching into his pocket.

Out came a cluster of colourful tickets.

‘We’re going to the whole bloody lot!’

*This Football Dad column refers to the 2015 FIFA U-20 Men’s World Cup, held in New Zealand.

Main photo credit: unsplash.

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About Football Dad

Football Dad is a collection of stories by Waikato writer and football fan Jeff Neems. The full collection of stories appear in an ebook you can buy here through Amazon.

Football Dads are everywhere … and not just in football.

They’re the parent who volunteers to help with their kids’ sports team – or who are left with the job when other parents go missing. This well-crafted volume of amusing columns comes from a father who has spent many hours travelling to and from games, tirelessly helping his kids as they take up The Beautiful Game.

Through Football Dad you’ll meet the oddballs he meets on the sidelines and in the clubrooms. Many a parent will recognise these characters … and smile.

Football Dad’s collection of stories were originally published in the award-winning football magazine The Range, published by WaiBOP Football. They have also appeared in FANZ, the official magazine of Friends of Football.

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