My dad was never much of a sports fan, but in the interest of connecting with his sportswriter son, he’d attend a game or two each year with me.
In 1994, that meant going to a World Cup match in Chicago.
It’s been eight years since my dad died, and my favorite memory with him is the day we watched Germany play Belgium at Soldier Field.
The fun began before kickoff. Walking the concourse, we noticed a Belgian fan trying to convince a German supporter that an upset was brewing. The German fan had a simple but loud response to every point offered up: “AUF WIEDERSEHN! AUF WIEDERSEHN!” The Belgian fan finally gave up and walked off as Papa and I laughed.
Alas, the Belgian fan was wrong. Germany won 3-2 to the delight of the partisan crowd (including my father and me).
Hours later, after stopping at Taste of Chicago, we were in a bookstore at Water Tower Place awaiting my brother who was due to get off work. Because I was wearing a Mannschaft shirt, another Belgian fan walked up to me and said unprompted: “Congratulations to Germany, but we have reason to be proud because Belgium also played very well today.”
I was slightly stunned by the interruption, but agreed with him. We shook hands and the man walked away.
I'm recounting that day because I believe Kansas City would benefit greatly if chosen as a host city for the 2026 World Cup. FIFA announced Wednesday that the competition would be held in the United States, Canada and Mexico, and Arrowhead Stadium is being considered for some of the games.
I’ve seen some hesitation on social media about whether Kansas City would care enough about soccer to be a good host for the World Cup. To that, I say attend a Sporting Kansas City game.
But frankly, the World Cup is about so much more than soccer. I saw that firsthand at the 1994 World Cup as a fan and again in 2006, when I covered the competition in Germany for The Star.
The World Cup is a five-week party with (mostly) really happy fans from around the world. The video above shows fans from the 2006 World Cup, and it gives you an idea of the fun that would be coming to Kansas City.
Here is one example. Just days after I arrived in Germany in 2006, I stood outside a train station in Hamburg and feared the worst.
Having stopped to watch a half dozen orange-and-green clad Ivory Coast fans play instruments, sing and dance, I spied a group of Argentinians in their familiar light blue jerseys headed toward us. It was day two of the World Cup and those teams were set to play that night in a “Group of Death” match.
To my astonishment, the 10 or so Argentinians joined the fun. All at once, it was a blur of green, blue and orange. The music ended with smiles and a few hugs, and both set of fans went in different directions.
This scene was repeated often during my time in Germany, and it included U.S. fans who went to the must-win game in Nuremberg.
After filing my story, I met up with my wife, Karen, who was bubbling with joy. She had spied a man playing bongos near the cafe where she was having coffee. When the game ended, U.S. and Ghana fans began to return to the area and stopped to listen to the music.
One by one, U.S. and Ghana fans took turns dancing in front of the bongo player. Karen told me she didn’t know who won the game because everyone was so having such a good time.
Wouldn’t this be an awesome sight at the Plaza? Or the Power & Light District?
Here is one final story.
After covering a Round of 16 game in Dortmund between Brazil and Ghana, I was on a train with a quiet couple dressed in Brazil’s famous canary yellow jerseys.
They spoke a bit of English, and told me they had two young children back in Brazil. Seeing their beloved team in the World Cup was a lifelong dream and they figured Germany was a safe destination for a vacation. They were clearly excited, even if it didn’t match the over-the-top enthusiasm of others on that train.
We only chatted for 10 minutes or so, and I don’t recall their names. At that World Cup, I spoke with people from every continent but Antarctica, but I think about that couple more than anyone else I met, at least a couple times each year.
I’m not sure why. Maybe we made a connection. Or perhaps they showed me that soccer fans don’t have to sing, dance and paint their faces, although that’s wonderful to see, too.
Soccer fans can be parents who are reserved, because like all of us, they have a bucket list, too.
The love of soccer comes in all different forms, and it would be a blast to see that all on display right here in Kansas City.
Our city would be richer for the experience and, selfishly, I’d love to go to another World Cup.
I hope it happens.