Working dad at the World Cup – life away from your family

Adam Lanigan talks to a dad who is balancing the excitement of working away at the World Cup with his family commitments.

world cup dad


The men’s football World Cup in Qatar is in full swing. For those lucky enough to be at the event, it creates memories that last a lifetime. That is also true for those out there in a working capacity like Colm Harty, series producer and director on BBC’s iconic Match of the Day programme, but how does heading off to work for a month at the biggest event in sport fit for a father-of-three? We asked him.

“Going off to the World Cup has felt harder this time because we are right in the middle of the school year. I get home and three days later, it’s my one of my son’s birthdays and three days later, it’s Christmas Day! My daughter said I was going to miss the whole build-up to Christmas. She loves getting the tree up and the decorations. She really enjoys the weeks ahead of it and I won’t be around for that. Instead, I will be in 30-degree heat in my t-shirt and shorts.

“It’s different when I go off to these events in summer because the children can go and play outside on the cul-de-sac where we live with their friends. The school year is winding down and the majority of the work is done. That is not an option this time. My oldest boy is doing the first year of his GCSEs and my daughter has just started secondary school and is still getting used to all the homework in the evenings and I can’t be around to help with that. While my three kids all play football at the weekend and do training during the week, so I’m not around to go and watch or to ferry them back and forth.

“In 2014, I did the World Cup in Brazil. I then came home for two days before heading off to Glasgow to do the Commonwealth Games, so it was the best part of two months away. And the two days I was home, I was knackered. At the time, my youngest was eight-months-old and there were three kids at home with one of them a baby and I was essentially not there for two months. I said to myself I would never do that again, as that is too long. Although this time I am away for five-and-a-half weeks right before Christmas.

“It is very exciting and you are at the epicentre of what people are watching around the world. You do get to games and in Brazil, we had a hotel on Ipanema Beach in Rio de Janeiro so you could go on the beach before going to work or then go to the beer huts after the game. So there is down time and it is enjoyable. It sounds more glamorous than it is, but it is fun. I love football and a big part of the draw is to go and work on these big events.

“I have had this job for a long time so it’s always been known that I would go off for these things. You know in advance it’s coming. We have plans in place, but it’s not for me to sort out because I am not there. If I try to get involved, my wife doesn’t like it as she needs something that works for her. She is used to it by now as every couple of years, I disappear for a chunk of the summer.

“The hardest thing is coming back and re-integrating back into the family after being away. They have got into a slightly different routine and created a slightly different family dynamic for that duration to get on with it and do what they have to do. I may come back tired but I can’t say that because that will not wash, so you have to readjust pretty quickly. For that period you are away, you’re thinking about work and yourself, you are generally in a hotel and it’s quite a selfish existence. Suddenly, you are back home with washing to do and food to make and that reintegration into home life takes a little bit of time.

“When I was in Rio for the World Cup, FaceTime conversations were quite difficult as the kids were quite young and you couldn’t sit and have a proper chat with them. Now it’s different as they are a bit older. Plus, the time difference didn’t work out with when I wanted to chat and when my wife wanted to chat and I could tell she was struggling. That makes the conversations hard because I want to say what a fantastic time I’m having, but they don’t want to hear it. Now my kids are a bit older, I can arrange to speak to them every couple of days and have a proper chat, so that’s better.

“Whenever I come back from something like the World Cup, there is always the question of ‘What have you got for us?’ And that includes my wife as well! So I’ll definitely try and buy my way back into their affections!”

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