It's the greatest show of the year, and the love for the beautiful game runs high in some families.
When Samantha Yong was growing up, she barely saw her father due to his erratic work schedule. But every four years, Yong and her brother knew they’ll be spending hours with him watching football. Yong’s father, Albert is a diehard World Cup fan; he flew with his business partner to France in 1998 and to Germany in 2006 to catch the finals of the World Cup. Initially, seeing them both go mad over the World Cup matches puzzled Yong and her younger brother, Samuel.
“We really didn’t get it as kids. My dad and his business partner would even fly to the event’s host countries to catch the final match. But as we grew older and started to get interested in the matches, it quickly blossomed into the perfect father-children bonding session,” says Yong, who remembers staying up with her brother and father to catch World Cup games.
The 31-year-old media communications manager supports the German football team, just like her dad. “Dad explained that watching the finals live and joining in the boisterous atmosphere brought alive the World Cup spirit in him. His passion for the game inspired us siblings and we began to see how one exciting event easily brought the world together,” she adds.
Although she grew up watching World Cup, Yong says she became truly passionate when she started throwing her support behind the German team in 2002. “I first began to take note of the talented German players during the reign of Michael Ballack and Oliver Kahn. I began researching the rest of the team and got to know more of the German team’s history in the World Cup,” says Yong, recalling how she and her father used to cheer for the team in front of the television.
As World Cup matches were played so late on school nights, Yong and her brother would watch repeats the following day. “This very quickly turned into a family affair, with my brother, dad and even mum watching the matches sometimes” she adds.
Yong and her father are avid German fans, and so her brother would support whichever team they played against. “My brother was so cheeky. He would taunt us whenever Germany was playing and cheer endlessly for the opposing team. Sometimes, it got so intense at home that I would chase him around the house screaming, ‘You take that back!’” Yong reminisces. Since then, her brother has decided to support Brazil, much to Yong and her father’s dismay.
Yong and her brother have left home to work outstation, but they are still watching World Cup with their father. “We would each be in our different homes watching the match. “It was 3am and I suddenly felt my phone vibrating repeatedly. It was my brother and my dad, chatting away in our family WhatsApp chat group. They were going on about the upcoming game between Germany and Portugal. Dad even took a selfie next to the TV screen and sent it to us,” shares Yong.
She also relates a time when she complained that she couldn’t watch a World Cup match because an app had failed on the family chat group. “Good thing we’re living in such advanced technology times. Dad and I used Facetime on our mobile phones so I could watch the game on his TV at home,” she says.
Yong, who got married two years ago, has even got her husband to join in the craze. “My husband doesn’t really watch football. But ever since he met me, he has been trying to get into it. He sometimes stays up with me and needless to say, he supports Germany,” shares Yong.
Yong and her dad are happy with how Germany is playing in the current World Cup. “So far, there have been glowing moments for our favourite team. They played against Portugal so flawlessly in their opening game. I have been watching this team over the years, so I am familiar with their game play. There is always an element of fluidity as well as surprise.
“I believe the German team is in its best form. We are hoping that striker Mirsolav Klose will score one more goal, as this may be his last appearance in the World Cup. I also want to see Thomas Muller win the Golden Boot again, like he did last season,” she concludes.
FOOTBALL TURNS FAMILY INTO FRENEMY
His entire family have always been die-hard Brazil supporters when it comes to the World Cup. Everyone at home would don their Brazil jerseys and T-shirts and wait in front of the television for the game to start. That was until Saravanan Ganesan, 46, met his wife, VJ Veerasamy, 40, who is an ardent Germany supporter.
“Even though I have to share my living space with a German supporter, I have never betrayed my team and have continued to support them since the 1980s,” declares Saravanan in mock seriousness, even as he continues to tease his wife for not joining his “team”.
Despite supporting different football teams, Saravanan and VJ still watch the World Cup together. “We’re the best of friends whenever any of our favourite teams are playing. But the second they go against each other, we turn into sworn enemies,” Saravanan adds, before erupting into laughter.
His wife adds that they sit on separate seats and as far away from each other as possible, whenever their favourite teams face each other in a match. This is exactly what happened 12 years ago, when Brazil and Germany met at the 2002 World Cup finals.
“There’s no point in bringing up the past, but yes, Brazil won the cup that year,” says VJ with just a slight bitterness, while her husband beams from ear to ear. “Honestly, it will be pretty exciting if Brazil and Germany were to meet each other again this season,” Saravanan adds.
However, the aftermath of their front room after such an exciting match, is left to be seen. “I will buy her breakfast, if my team wins against her beloved Germany. She can have anything she wants, too!” says Saravanan, with a cheeky smile.
The couple who were friends for over 17 years got married in 2007, and have always watched World Cup together. When their son was born two years ago, Saravanan and VJ were already planning to introduce him to World Cup.
“We thought to ourselves then, by the time the next World Cup is here, our boy will be almost three-years-old!” says VJ, excited that her son Aadhavan has not only started kicking a football, but can do “the shimmy” like Brazilian footballer Neymar.
“My dad, his grandfather, has never been so proud,” declares Saravanan. But the three-year-old will be allowed to choose his choice team. “Sure, I occasionally dress him up in T-shirts displaying Brazil’s logo, but once he grows up and understands the game better, we’ll let him pick his own team,” says Saravanan.
“Aadhavan might kick like a Brazilian player today, but tomorrow he might block the ball like Kraut!” adds VJ, who also insists she will leave it up to her son to pick his favourite team.
HANGING OUT WITH THE BOYS
Once every four years, IT Project Manager Subramaniam Sivaswamy, 53, would bond with his three sons over hot chocolate, biscuits and a World Cup match on TV.
“Before my sons came along, I used to watch the World Cup alone. It felt a bit lonely. I had friends, of course, who loved soccer, but it just wasn’t the same. Having someone in the family to discuss the game with changes everything. Now, although my sons and I support different teams, I really look forward to our little ‘arguments’ and predictions over who will win during World Cup season,” says the father-of-three.
Subramaniam’s love for the game came from playing football as a child, joining the boys in his neighbourhood for a friendly match. Now, he has simply passed the passion to his children.
“I know of some dads who love football and try forcing the sport on their children. I never had to do that. Football was the first sport I introduced to my sons and they just took to it naturally. My eldest son could kick a ball at three. Now, he has his own football team and plays every week.”
Subramaniam and his second son Sreeraam, 13, support Brazil while his eldest, Kishan, 17, is a firm Netherlands fan. His youngest, Shyam, nine, is all for Argentina. Subramaniam’s wife, ticketing officer Parvathi Kothandaraman, 43, is a World Cup Fan too, but just not as “crazy” as the boys.
“When I was younger, I used to stay up the whole night to watch the World Cup. Now I can’t do that anymore or I’ll be too sleepy for work. Usually, we’ll only choose to watch one of the games – either the one at 12am or the one at 3am/4am. My eldest son is sitting for his SPM this year, but we’ll still allow him to watch one of the games, since he’s old enough to manage his own time. My two younger sons will only watch the World Cup on the weekends – they have no complaints since they usually can’t keep their eyes open till late to catch the game,” says Subramaniam.
Nevertheless, whenever any of the supported teams wins a match, the family would be waking up the whole neighbourhood with their whoops and shouts.
“During the last World Cup, when the Netherlands won, Kishan actually kicked the bed really hard and had to a nurse a sore foot for days after. But the reaction was only natural – we feel a deep sense of victory whenever the teams we support go for the goal. Yes, the World Cup fever will make us do crazy things like that,” Subramaniam reveals.
Subramaniam only hopes that the family tradition of enjoying the World Cup together would last through the years. “In a couple of years, my eldest son may prefer to watch the game with his friends. But never mind, I still have my two younger ones to accompany me,” he says.