I have, unremarkably, spent the last three days watching virtually every minute of the eight World Cup matches played. Of more importance is the fact that the vast majority of that time, my two-year old has watched with me. Sure, in the eightieth minute of the Mexico - South Africa opener, she turned to me and said "Too long, daddy, too long, turn off, turn off." But after I promised to take her to the playground before Uruguay - France kicked off, she piped down and got into the matches enough that she spent a lot of today's drab Australia - Germany tie running over to her mother (who was making her way through some paperwork in the living room) and drawing her attention to replays of whatever scoring opportunity Germany had just bottled against the underwhelming Aussies ("Look, Mommy, look!").
The tipping point, in my daughter's move from toleration of the game to enjoyment, was DC United's friendly with AC Milan several weeks back. We took a number of friends to the match and the club provided us with tickets behind the players' tunnel entrance. The atmosphere, environment, and quality of the game seemed to grab her. DC's unexpected performance helped tremendously as well.
Since that time, she has asked regularly to go to soccer games. We began this season with season tickets to three clubs and I had marked out about a half dozen games that I wanted to take her to -- afternoon or early evening affairs or matches, like the AC Milan game, that were particularly special -- and planned on going to the remainder with others. But now she wants to go to every game. Real Salt Lake in a US Open Cup match? "I want to go to soccer game Daddy, I go to soccer game." I have a hard time getting up for those matches and, yet, she wants to be there.
I play less attention to the games, as I spend the bulk of my time fretting about whether I need to entertain her or worrying about her hurting herself when she's grown momentarily bored, but I enjoy them far more.
After Siphiwe Tshabalala's beautiful goal, she walked into another room, got on top of a step ladder, thrust her arms out, and chanted "D - C - United!" She continued throughout the rest of the games, finding multiple reasons to scream during South Korea's romp over the most disappointing team of the World Cup thus far, until the U.S. - Ingerland game yesterday. After that match, she has reverted to walking around the house yelling "U.S.A.! U.S.A.!," albeit with slightly less confidence than the "DC United" chant.
I don't know what I've done to deserve this, but I plan on enjoying her enjoyment of this for as long as I can.