Before I went on last year’s AO trip to Brazil for the World Cup, I tried to hook my then 7-year-old daughter, Alex, on the sport. We had kicked the ball around plenty over the years–the Disney Princess castle she had when she was younger served as her goal–but she hadn’t been interested in playing on a team, and had more or less ignored the USMNT games on TV.
A couple friends suggested I brainwash her through the magic of collecting Panini World Cup stickers, and sure enough, that did the trick. Soon she was swapping stickers with her soccer-loving classmates and becoming familiar with many of the World Cup players, paying special attention to unusual names and hairstyles. The store where we bought our stickers, Upper 90 in Brooklyn, nicely gave us a giant poster that had all the matches listed, and Alex filled in the results once the games were completed. The first thing she said to me when I got back from Brazil was, “Daddy, the next World Cup is in Russia. Can I go to Russia with you?”
I smiled and said, “Sure, sweetie. But that’s a long way off. Next year is the Women’s World Cup in Canada. Maybe we can go there.” Alex soon forgot about my suggestion but I sure didn’t. I began planning a special Daddy-daughter trip right away, and even told her teacher on the first day of school last fall that I’d be pulling Alex from class for a week come early June.
As our trip to the first two games in Winnipeg drew near, I told Alex about all of the great AO traditions, like the pre-game party, the march to the match, and the standing and chanting. I have to admit, I was a bit nervous about how she’d respond when she experienced them in person, but Alex loved the pre-game festivities at Barley Brothers, especially the giant Connect Four game and getting her face painted.
The march was another hit with Alex, who took several photos atop Daddy’s shoulders at the throng of boisterous Outlaws. But the most fun she had was leading a chant of “I Believe That We Will Win” in the second half of the Australia game and getting high fives from the AO folks around us.
Watching our women romp to the title made a fan for life in Alex, who went to two different soccer camps once summer vacation started and got to go to the ticker-tape parade in Manhattan with her mom. But most importantly, our trip strengthened the bond between a proud dad and his amazing daughter, and for that, I’ll always be grateful.
Oh, and that 2018 trip to Russia? You’re damn right I’m bringing her!