There is no school tomorrow. Normally, since my husband and I both work, and our after-school sitter is just that, these occasional days off send my husband and me into a tailspin: Who will watch the kids??
(And, yes, if you’re scratching your head: New York City public schools are in session until the end of June.)
But tomorrow will be different, folks. Tomorrow, I will not have to worry about how to do my job and keep the kiddos entertained. Tomorrow, I get to employ a secret weapon, one that’s activated every four years: the FIFA World Cup.
Just in case you don’t know, the World Cup is THE event for soccer fans across the globe. The competition started on June 14, with a match between this year’s host country, Russia, against Saudi Arabia. Thirty-two men’s national teams participate; they will be winnowed down to 16, then eight, then four, with the final game on July 15.
Since the last (men’s) World Cup four years ago — which included an exciting final match in which Germany, where my husband is from, emerged as champions — my 8- and 10-year-old sons have been stoking their soccer obsession so furiously that it’s basically a blazing inferno that cannot be contained. In addition to playing the sport on various teams and nearly every day at recess, my kids collect soccer cards, soccer trivia, soccer books, and, of course, soccer jerseys.
So it’s probably no surprise that my kids have been anticipating this day for quite a long time. And just about nothing — except, you know, school — is going to tear them away from watching as many World Cup matches as they possibly can over the next four weeks. And you know what? I’m OK with that. In addition to basically providing free child care — and who doesn’t love that? — here are six more reasons why the World Cup is amazing for parents.
My kids can identify the flags of Argentina, Egypt, Portugal, and Senegal. They could probably even find them on a map. Are they geniuses? No. They are just obsessed. They’ve spent hours pouring over the groups — the sorta-but-not-really-random groupings of teams that face off in the first round of the competition — predicting (guessing?) who will win. (And, on second thought, my kids may very well be geniuses — but not necessarily in geography.)
It’s truly international
Unlike, um, the World Series — which is limited to the U.S. and Canada — the World Cup is truly global in scope. It’s a wonderful reminder how the love of this simple game is nearly universal. We’re already a bit spoiled living in New York, in a diverse community that’s chockablock with international families — including ours — but, still. At a time in which the U.S. is becoming increasingly isolated due to some seriously batshit crazy government policies, it’s a great reminder that on a person-to-person basis, we’re all more alike than we are different.
A few weeks ago, my boys — who, as always, were wearing soccer jerseys — and I hopped on the subway. As it happened, a friend of theirs — who was also wearing a soccer jersey — was on the same car, as were some of his friends, who were wearing soccer jerseys as well. Their parents were there, too — sadly, they were not wearing jerseys — as well as another grownup I just assumed was attached to one of these kids but turned out to be a random passenger. What was the lively conversation that made this standing-room-only ride fly by? Various aspects of the World Cup, of course.
No need to make any plans…
Ever have those days where one kid needs to be at practice, the other has a playdate, and you’re supposed to meet a friend for a dinner that was planned months in advance? Well, in my home, we’re pretty much guaranteed to NOT have that happen in the coming weeks. That’s because soccer trumps all. If you want to find me or my kids at any point between now and July 15, check their school, check my office, check the FIFA World Cup schedule. That’s all there is to it.
.. and yet the games are finite
Soccer’s true beauty is in its brevity. Do you remember in 2015, when the Mets lost to the Kansas City Royals in Game 1 of the World Series after a 14-inning game that lasted more than five hours? Yeah, me neither. Seriously, who has time for that?!?! In the World Cup, extra time maxes out at 30 minutes, then any ties are resolved with penalty shootouts. We’re looking at a total commitment of less than two-and-a-half hours. Because sometimes you (read: I) need a break. And even if the World Cup is happening, sometimes you need to just not watch soccer.
It truly boggles my mind when people call soccer “boring.” Especially as these same naysayers are quite often people who watch (American) football — which, to me, mostly comprises of timeouts — and even golf (zzzz). By contrast, soccer’s action is nonstop, and a goal literally could happen at any time — I think the excitement is in the anticipation and uncertainty. And even if watching sports isn’t really your thing (and, hey, it really isn’t mine either), the athleticism of these young players is nothing short of incredible. Trust me, as a purely visual experience, watching these strapping young men do their thing is completely entertaining. (Plus, swoon!)