Precursor: Oma is German for Grandma. Opa is German for Grandpa. John is not my brother’s actual name.
“How’s it going John?”
“What’s that Opa?”
“How’s it going John?”
“Opa, it’s Quinn.”
I laughed it off. He shook his head. I could see the embarrassment, the guilt in his eyes. We both knew what was going on.
It was Germany’s round of 16 game against Algeria and I was at my Oma and Opa’s house to watch. John, the name I was being called incorrectly, is the name of my older brother. We’re only two years apart and others have made the same mistake before, innocently enough. This time though, it was different. My Opa will be 80 this year and his memory and other mental capacities have been fading quite markedly.
The game, which required extra time, may have been torturous, but it proved to be the distraction from the awkward introduction that I (and maybe we) needed. However, I have no intention of writing a match report here and the German win is deep in the back of the net now anyway. In fact, as I write this article die Adler (the eagles) are on their way to the World Cup final after beating the hosts rather mercilessly.
At this point you’re probably wondering: What has this got to do with Arsenal? What has this got to do with Canada?
Well, admittedly, the connection to Arsenal is weak. Özil, Mertesacker, and Podolski, are all Gunners who have played some part in die Nationalmannschaft’s success. They are the only remaining Arsenal players at the World Cup. Özil’s name adorns the back of my Germany kit. Mertesacker’s name will probably adorn the back of my next Arsenal kit. That’s it.
But where one connection is weak, another is strong. This, of course, has plenty to do with Canada. I can’t drive anywhere in Southwestern Ontario right now without seeing international flags fastened to car windows and waving in the wind with pride. Being Canadian during the World Cup is about celebrating where you came from, and being thankful for Canada and all that being Canadian affords, at present. I saw a Canadian-Italian community centre putting up projectors so that people could gather to cheer on the Azzurri. I know German Canadians who were organizing post-game 5-a-side matches. Generations of strangers and of kin are coming together thanks to a fantastic World Cup.
My Opa and I are just another example of that. If not for his immigration to Canada with my Oma at his side, I would never have been born, let alone born a Canadian. Since my birth, he’s instilled a love of football within me and coached me on and off the pitch. Sadly, as life happens and as I’ve grown older, I haven’t visited as much as I should have.
I encourage you to take a break from refreshing to see if we’ve signed Messi yet, and to appreciate the beauty of a World Cup in Canada. The biggest game is only a few days away. Get off the couch on Sunday and allow yourself to be a part of something. This only comes once every four years. Savour it. Watch it. Surround yourself with family, friends, strangers, or any combination of the three.
I’ll be sitting next to my Opa, sweating nervously about the final, but quietly appreciative that this German side has already gifted me something more important: the maximum amount of games to watch with my hero. He might ask me, “Where does he play?” (He being André Schürrle) and forget just as soon. He might seek confirmation about whether or not Manuel Neuer is indeed Bayern München’s goalkeeper, time and time again. He won’t forget this World Cup though, and for whom I’ve been privileged to watch it with, neither will I.