On Footy and Family: A Brit’s World Cup Reflection

Written by Henry Standage (@henrystandage)

Two hours after England lost last Wednesday, I was at an old London bar called Joe Kools. Kools is the type of old-timer bar that every alumni from the 70’s and 80’s recommends to you when they first hear you’re heading to their University town. I’ve heard some good stories about Kools – I get the impression it used to be a riot. Once in a while, the students will sincerely, albeit ironically, all crash it and give it one of those awesome, throwback nights. This wasn’t one of those nights. My dad and I pretty much had the place to ourselves. We were half down-in-the-dumps and half in shell shock. As usual, a heart-breaking England exit had brought us onto the topic of mortality;

“When your 30 you feel like you have time to do everything — and it’s just not the case when you hit 50.”

The vulnerability in my dad’s voice and the recognition of his upcoming 50th birthday in November made his point obvious.

Time is a complicated thing to consider. However, I’ve always found that with World Cup’s it feels explicit and uncomplicated, particularly when you’re passing through the universal milestones of youth;

“This is the only World Cup you’ll experience in high school”

“This is the only World Cup you’ll experience in University”

It’s the only passage of time that I’ve been able to fully grasp. I’ve understood the weight of what “once every four years” means. You get two every fucking decade. This was the first summer I’d ever watched an England World Cup game without my dad. It took him saying “fuck it” and driving 10 hours within the span of a single day for us to even see the semi-final together. I’m growing up too.

I wrote this the next morning;

“I know England’s success in the World Cup doesn’t (and never will) define me – or my relationship to my father. But as I watch him pack his suitcase at 7am on Thursday morning, a mere 16 hours after he arrived,

It find of feels like it does”

Yeah, I’m a fucking drama queen.

A week later, I’m okay. And presently, I’m filled with more hope than despair. With the lens of a fresh loss slowly fading, I can appreciate the first semi-final of my lifetime, the most likeable England squad of my lifetime and a manager who you would let look after your baby or your elderly grandmother. He also brought the waist coat back (Seriously – I asked my parents to get me waistcoat suit for my birthday this summer. The previous three English-born managers of the national team were Roy Hodgson, Sam Allardyce and Steve McLaren. Not exactly a bunch of James Deans are they).


That’s enough about England. Unfortunately, I haven’t written since my World Cup preview from the opening day of the tournament. Since then, my hands have been more curled up than Brandon Ingram’s new haircut (hey! basketball!).



The Germans, who can make the New England Patriots look inconsistent, went out in the bloody group stage after a 2-0 loss to Korea – inspiring me to impulsively spend $33 on an all-you-can-eat Sushi buffet. This obviously resulted in me viciously vomiting everywhere. It was only right. You scratch my back Korea, I (puke my fucking brains out) scratch yours*.

*editors note: sushi is originally a Japanese cuisine, not Korean. I don’t mean to throw one of our finest contributors under the bus here, but we like to sail a factual ship around here. Carrying on. 

Kylian Mbappe single-handedly ruined the self-esteem of literally everyone I know between the ages of 19-23. He’s the first global sports star of my lifetime to be younger than me and the most obvious death-via-alcohol-poisoning candidate since Henry Rowengartner in ‘Rookie of the Year’. Whatever though, I bet he has a small dick.

Argentina looked more clueless than Inspector Clouseau in the first 30 minutes of a Pink Panther movie. The coach was a walking muppet reminiscent of every out-of-their-depth, over-the-top assistant coach I’ve ever seen. The difference being, you know, he was the head coach, at the World Cup. Also, if people are more interested in the celebrations of a 57-year-old former player sitting in a V.I.P box than the actual players on the pitch – it’s probably a bad sign. I like to imagine that the way Diego Maradona acts at Argentina games is the same way Charlie Sheen acts when he watches ‘Two and a Half Men’ episodes that don’t feature him (Lionel Messi is obviously Ashton Kutcher).

Russia beat Spain, causing vodka to come out of the fountain, tap and toilet water. During the closing ceremonies when all the players had to shake Putin’s hand, my buddies and I were giddy at the possibility of a player having the Godzilla-sized testicles to give Ol’ Vladdy the skip. Can you imagine? That would have been like going to visit the basketball program at Louisville and not letting Pitino buy you a hooker. The audacity. The nerve.

Neymar rolled more than a sorority girl at an EDM festival – making him the official public enemy of every North American footy fan who was trying to get their friends to appreciate the beautiful game. He’s the poster boy for the “Soccer is a game for pussies” fan club. It sucks – he’s an embarrassment to the game and cartoonish cowardly. Neymar is the estranged brother that everyone not-so-secretly feels ashamed of in every family, of the soccer world. My dad also texted me about 7 times during the tournament, sympathetically asking “Are we sure Neymar isn’t mentally ill?” The answer is no, I am not sure.

Ronaldo started the tournament like a house on fire – and then decided to grow a goatee. After Ronaldo pledged to keep his goatee for the rest of the tournament, Portugal tied Iran 1-1 and then lost to Uruguay 2-1 in the round of 16. Maybe I’m just an irrational, superstitious and senseless soccer fan, but if I were Portuguese and the greatest player in the country’s history decided to grow a goatee in what will surely be his last World Cup…. Blood would be shed. Absolutely unacceptable. If you had told me I would associate Ronaldo with the word goat in this tournament, I would’ve assumed Portugal had won it all. Instead, it’s because CR7 looked like he had an upcoming audition for the role of a pirate in a straight-to-DVD movie.

Ahhh that felt good. I needed to get some stupid jokes off my chest.

This past month, I became daily pen pals with my grandpa, routinely talked to cousins I hadn’t spoked to in years, and listened to a stupid 1996 song called “It’s Coming Home” an embarrassing amount of times. I got my head stuck in the clouds, as I tend to do sometimes. I even almost got fired when I screamed so loudly at Kane’s winner vs. Tunisia that the Dean of Science at my work office heard me two floors up. When we lost to Croatia, as I implied earlier, I felt a mix of panic and numbness for a couple days.

When you convince yourself that something is coming home, it’s easy to mix up destiny with destination. It’s time to move on to the next four year chapter of my life. Who knows, by the next World Cup I might have children, or a flying car. Maybe I’ll even have my shit together.

And hopefully, it’ll be me who comes home. Stick around for a couple more years dad, it’s my turn to go the distance.

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