I spent Father’s Day much the same way I spent Christmas – sick on the couch.
But unlike Christmas, I had the World Cup to occupy my waking hours. Jesus is just all right and all, but a month of soccer? It was just what the doctor ordered between whooping coughs and snotty noses. Even Jesus could get behind this.
Elise, as she did last time, got sick at just the same time I did.
This time, we could binge on soccer matches. Last time, it was a marathon session on Bones, season 1. I took a course from Dr. Kathy Reichs at UNC Charlotte. I saw things that haunt me to this day. She’d show up slides while she ate a sandwich.
This time for our dual sickness, Elise noticed something interesting – the herbal tea bag I just used had a fortune on it. YOUR CHOICES WILL CHANGE THE WORLD. Peace. Accord. Preservation of natural resources. And end to homelessness and hunger.
Elise doesn’t just succumb to germs like her daddy. Apparently, she thinks like him too. This is the text she sent me after we’d contemplated my choices.
So, I’m starting with the man in the mirror. And my World Cup, which runneth over with kid questions like these:
1. Is there a World Cup for girls?
In two years, it’ll be y’all’s turn.
The FIFA women’s World Cup is played every four years, like the men’s. The U.S. beat Norway 2-1 in the first women’s final. The field is half the men’s – 16 – and nations must qualify in preliminary rounds, just as in the men’s game.
FIFA says there are 29 million women and girls who play soccer worldwide. That’s a lot of ponytails. And Hope Solo is one of them. That’s her there, on the left. Now that’s change I can get behind all day long.
Japan is reigning champ; Germany and the U.S. have won the tournament twice each. The next one is in Canada in 2015. So Elise, you’d better get to work – that’s a mere 351 days away.
2. Do they broadcast games in other languages?
You can hear this World Cup in at least three languages. My favorite, though, is British. Just the expressions they use to describe the events.
“It was a moment of panic for the back line, as they feared the opposing side would have an opportunity early.”
“Another chance goes banging to the bleachers!”
“When it comes to the crunch, he’s there with scoring.”
It’s cool to listen in Spanish, too. Even a wayward pass or routine throw-in sounds crucial when you roll your Rs.
3. Who is the oldest and youngest player in the World Cup?
Colombian goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon (above) checks in at age 43, a good 4 years older than his nearest competition. He’s just a little bit older than me. He’s not too old to be on The Twitter, apparently.
Cameroon’s Fabrice Olinga could be Mondragon’s son, at 18 years and one month. His nickname? Happy Feet. See him in this video.
4. Do soccer referees have to know the languages of both teams?
Some soccer language is universal the finger wag, the stop sign, and a hand up with a yellow or red card in it leaves little to interpretation.
Nothing says chaos like an Asian official sandwiched between an angry Frenchman and a combative Honduran in an African football stadium. Many international players know more than one language. Expletives of all languages are easy to pick out.
For this World Cup, all officials had to pass a written and spoken test of English. What a disadvantage, if American goalkeeper Tim Howard gets a little hot under the collar and lets loose a tirade of blue language that a Swedish official might hear.
He could see una tarjeta rojo.
5. Do World Cup players watch other games?
It’s doubtful. You don’t see a lot of profilin’ when the cameras scan the crowd. They’re back in the hotel fixing their hair or playing xBox.
And you don’t expect English star Wayne Rooney (left) to hit the bleachers with Australian fans, for instance.
Even if his team is mathematically eliminated.
I’m just glad the cameras don’t pan from the action to show Julianne Hough and Kerry Washington in the stands to promote “Dancing With the Stars” or “Scandal.”
6. What was the lowest-ranked team to win the World Cup?
Rankings have been in effect only since 1992. That’s older than Happy Feet, but way younger than Faryd Mondragon.
France in 1998, at a World Cup it hosted, won as the FIFA rankings’ No. 18 team. Playing on your home grounds is a key ingredient for the recipe of a champion. Before Le Bleu, five other nations (Argentina, England, Italy, Uruguay and West Germany) won at home.
7. How much is a World Cup ticket?
Got 90 bucks? You’re golden. Kind of.
That’s the minimum for a standard World Cup ticket, $10 more than the lowest price in 2010 for the South Africa tournament. Brazilian students and seniors have access to $15 tickets. Opening match prices for Brazil vs. Croatia were $220 to $495.
Feeling like a champ? That’ll cost you $440 to $990 if you want to see the tournament final. That’s a lot of taco-truck tacos.
8. What are FIFA rules for substitutes?
I like that FIFA calls its rules laws. Sounds so authoritative. Yet, most laws are “subject to officials’ discretion.” It’s where the “because I said so” rules apply. Or, laws.
Teams are allowed three substitutions per match in the World Cup. FIFA rules – I mean, laws – allow for as many as six … at the official’s discretion. A player may not re-enter a game after he leaves, giving him time to find Wayne Rooney and Julianne Hough.
9. How do they pick the kids who come out with the players?
Wouldn’t it be cool if they tried to find a kid who looked like the player?
This is done not only in World Cup matches, but many games. Kids are usually picked from local leagues. Especially in rivalry matches, maybe players would think twice before talking blue-language smack in the tunnel if tender young ears could hear.
It is untrue that the winning team gets to take the children home afterward.
10. I know why they cover their groin, but why do male players cover their boobs on free kicks?
Have you ever been kicked with a soccer ball in the nipples?
Oh. Never mind.
When nipples and nuts are kept out of the equation … a free kick can be a thing of beauty.
And one more video, by request, to teach you how to do the Colombian victory dance: