SB Nation

Matt Ufford | June 2, 2014

The World Cup is better than your job

An interview about priorities

The World Cup happens only once every four years, and yet most businesses still expect their employees to show up during the biggest sporting event on Earth. We spoke to a dozen employees who took a leave of absence — or quit outright — in order to watch the World Cup. Learn from their wisdom.

How much time are you taking off for the World Cup? What are your plans?

CHRIS J., lawyer: I'm resigning, so ... all of it? I'm a consultant for an accounting firm, and tax returns are not exactly how I envisioned making the world a better place with my law degree. So this is a matter of good timing more than anything. I fully intend to watch every match at various Houston bars, drinking and meeting strangers and leaving my résumé under their windshield wipers.

MATEO, attorney: My fiancée and I are going to spend over a week in Rio watching a handful of live games and a shit-ton of games on television.

PRAIRIE, metadata manager: Four weeks. In Brazil. With my husband and about a million of our closest friends. We have US TST-7s, which means we will see all three US group stage games, then four more games: the final on the 13th, and 3 knockout round games that will either be the US or whomever knocks us out.

DIEGO, compensation consultant: I'm taking off two weeks. I will watch the first half of the tournament here (in Omaha) and likely take off work early for the days Brazil plays.

JON, business analyst: I'm taking 5 days for the first week of the tournament, and then another 4-5 days for knockout games when i know the match ups. I'll watch most of the games at home with friends/family, but if England make it to the latter stages ill have to find a bar with other ex-pats to watch with.

RYAN, customer service associate: I have a partially torn ACL which may require surgery. I'm hoping that I can schedule a procedure in early to mid-June so that I can watch the entire tournament while recovering. Healing up in the air conditioning while watching an enthralling World Cup would be like winning the lottery compared to a fall or winter recovery.

BRET, accountant: Two weeks. I'm going to Brazil, staying in Natal, and traveling to all three USA matches.

WES, marketer: I'm taking off a five day stretch June 19-23 to visit New Haven, CT/NYC to watch games and visit friends. Any days I don't have off I plan to take long lunches to catch the early games and I'll have my live streams any time I have to be at my desk. Many a meeting will be blown off.

COLIN, administrative assistant: I'm taking three full weeks off. I'm going down to Brazil with a friend of mine on the 8th, before the tournament begins, and spending the first day in a small town on the coast between Natal and Recife.

We'll break camp to go down to Recife for Japan-Ivory Coast, then north to Natal for US-Ghana, and then he'll head back to the States for a wedding (WHAT KIND OF SOCCER FAN, AND YES, HE'S AN ARSENAL FAN, SCHEDULES A WEDDING DURING A WORLD CUP JUNE?!?). I'm moving on to Manaus, where I'll meet my girlfriend who's flying down for a few days of Amazon backpacking, US-Portugal, and then we fly home.

The real kicker is that even though I'm back on the 24th, I took the rest of the week off for the US-Germany game, and to just generally day drink all week in a Chicago summer while watching games. I saved my vacation time for two years, and now it's time to blow it.

What did you tell your boss?

TOM, sales department head: I told him I was taking off. He didn't really have a choice in the matter.

MATEO: I pulled the whole "we're having a PRE-wedding honeymoon at the World Cup!" even though, let's be serious: we're both taking an additional week off after the wedding, too.

PRAIRIE: I had to float the idea about six months in advance, before applying for tickets. Pitched it with "I have the accrued time off, this is my 10th wedding anniversary and it's the honeymoon we never got, this is a one-shot deal as Russia's looking strictly group stage and after that who knows, and once the group stage is over I can check in and make sure nothing is on fire back at the office."

DIEGO: The truth. I'm Brazilian, the World Cup is by far the most important sporting event to me, even though I was only born in Brazil and grew up in Kansas. I love American football and basketball, but the World Cup is a religion for Brazilians. I also told my boss that it's a great opportunity for me to see aunts, uncles, cousins, et. al., who I only get to see every few years.

"I don't think anyone's really realized I'm going to be home watching soccer the whole time."

JOE, grant manager: I submitted it as a normal vacation request -- just "I want to take these days off." I've made a couple jokes about it in the office since, but I don't think anyone's really realized I'm going to be home watching soccer the whole time.

CHRIS J.: I figured it was better to not mention my desire to watch the World Cup as a decision for my resigning. I simply told him that the work I do currently is not the path I want my career on and that I needed to dedicate my time to finding a position that is right for me.

CHRIS W., marketing specialist: It actually went a lot better than expected. My boss and I had been walking on eggshells lately since I don't particularly agree with his management style. I went into his office and told him my last day will be the 12th (I'll have to miss the Brazil vs. Crotia match). He hinted that he was a bit jealous since I'd be able to watch the World Cup. That gave me a little more respect for the guy and after that comment we proceeded to talk about soccer and the Cup for about 20 minutes.

WES: My boss is out of the country for a stretch of the early group games, so I don't have to tell her much of anything. She's told me I can use sick days as vaca time and I plan to do that frequently over the course of the tournament for the half days.

Have you ever done something like this before?

PRAIRIE: This is my third World Cup for attendance, but the first one where I'm on a regular salaried job. Did group stage in Germany and South Africa, but was setting own hours at the time, so I just told everyone I'd see 'em in three weeks, welp, bye.

JOE: Not quite the same, but I happened to be in the Greek Islands during the 2002 World Cup. It was the closest thing I've ever seen to a beer commercial version of sports fandom. Just pool bars and crazed Europeans. Dos a cero, the USMNT making the quarterfinals, it was fantastic.

"Perhaps a life lived without having said 'fuck it' at least once is a life lived poorly."

JON: I will usually take time off for the World Cup and European championships, so every 2 years. In 2002, when the tournament was in Japan/Korea and the games were on in the mornings in the UK, I managed to watch every minute of every game.

BRET: I went to three of the US games in 2011 for the Women's World Cup while I was on vacation in Europe. That made me want to go to the next men's World Cup.

CHRIS W.: Yes. For the 2006 Cup I quit my job a week or two before the World Cup. I was in college and it was a part time job so it wasn't a huge deal.

CHRIS J.: No. But as a friend of mine said recently, "Perhaps a life lived without having said 'fuck it' at least once is a life lived poorly."

Have you ever been fired before? Why?

MATEO: Yeah, but it was a call center job. I came back late from too many breaks. The Man can't hold me down, son!

PRAIRIE: Fired, no, laid off, yes, because I am a lifelong dotcommer and such is the way of the industry.

TOM: Yes, because I missed basically the entire month of the last World Cup.

JOE: Not really. Not yet, anyway.

WES: I haven't been fired since High School when I worked for a local sandwich/ice cream shop. We borrowed 100 hot dogs and two 5-gallon tubs of ice cream for a summer party. The owner and I had different definitions of the term "borrowed."

CHRIS J.: I have been. I was fired from JCPenney once as a shoe salesman. One day a very alluring woman wearing a very revealing shirt asked if she could get a discount. Being 16 years old, I immediately put in my employee code for her. It did not take them long to figure out I was clocked in at the time. I felt so bad I mailed the President of JCPenney a check for the discounted amount ($15.67).

Who are you cheering for?


PRAIRIE: USA. USA USA USA. Soft spot for the Netherlands based on fans, am looking forward to seeing Ozil play in person, soft spot for Hondurans 'cause their fans here are always rad people. Looking out for Japan, Australia, and Korea, too. Want a deep Brazil run for obvious party interests. England can go pound sand, however.

DIEGO: Brazil, obviously, because I was born there. My favorite Brazilian players are Oscar, Neymar, Thiago Silva, Dante, and Hulk.

JOE: USMNT, with sympathies for the Dutch (ancestry) and Brazil (soccer snobbery).

Photo: AFP / Getty Images

"My personal favorite players are Freedom McConstitution and Don't Tread, III.

"I also like that one player, Anybody but Ghana."

CHRIS J.: AMERICA. My personal favorite players are Freedom McConstitution and Don't Tread, III. I also like that one player, Anybody but Ghana.

JON: I'm from England, so as well as rooting for England, there are teams in the World Cup that I'm actively rooting against, especially Germany, but Argentina and Portugal as well.

RYAN: My mother's side of the family is from Germany which makes me a die-hard fan of their national team. I love the USMNT just as much, but if I had to make an agonizing pick, I'd take Germany. [Ed. note: TRAITOR!]

BRET: USA. Michael Bradley is my favorite player for the USMNT. I'm still coming to terms with Landon Donovan not being on the squad.

COLIN: I'm going down for the U.S. obviously, but objectively, I got a big crush on Uruguay in 2010, and I always look forward to watching the Netherlands play their style of attacking soccer. And of course, I'll always cheer for whoever's playing Italy. God, I hate Italy.

WES: I'll be hoping for a good showing from USA, but I'm interested to see the Belgium squad and how far they can go. I also hope Diego Costa is fit and scores a goal against Brazil in a knockout game just to turn the knife that much more.

MATEO: The USMNT 'cause I was born here, and the Mexican team 'cause of direct heritage.

Whoa! Who do you cheer for when the USA and Mexico play each other?

MATEO: I root for the US mainly because that's where I was born. Although I have to admit that there's a part of me that roots for the US over Mexico because it's rare that the US is an underdog in a major sport. If this was, say, figure skating, I probably WOULD root for a Mexican skater over his or her US counterpart.

What's your favorite soccer memory?

PRAIRIE: Hard to narrow down, but one of the best was US-Italy, K-town, 2006. Game was just nuts start to finish. But the best part: 'bout halfway through the first half, Kasey Keller turns to the crowd behind him, where most of the US fans are seated. He throws the devil horns and we all go fuckin' bananas. Few minutes later, Gianluigi Buffon does the same thing to the Italians behind him. He gets booed.

"Landon Donovan's goal against Algeria in 2010. ... I remember just jumping up and down and running circles around the living room when he scored."

JOE: Besides the 2002 World Cup, and this is suddenly way more poignant after last week, it's got to be Landon Donovan's goal against Algeria in 2010. As much as struggling against a team like Algeria sort of represents the USMNT experience as a whole, I can't really remember a sporting event making me so happy. Maybe one of the 49ers Super Bowls when I was a kid? I remember just jumping up and down and running circles around the living room when he scored.

JON: England versus Germany during qualifying for the 2002 World Cup. We fell behind 0-1 in Munich, where the Germans had never lost a qualifier. We needed to win to keep alive our chances of qualifying, and we came back to win 5-1. Steven Gerrard hit a 25-yarder to make it 2-1 just before half time, the bar I was watching it in went nuts. I was with a couple of buddies who weren't that into soccer but even they were going crazy. It was glorious.

CHRIS J.: 2010 World Cup. I was in law school and this was my first taste of international soccer. I got sucked into the adrenaline rush of mixing sports with patriotism (fuck right off, Olympics). When Donovan (RIP) hit that game-winning goal against Algeria I hugged people so hard I was bruised for days.

RYAN: This year's CONCACAF Gold Cup quarter-final against El Salvador really stands out. After a few angry El Salvador fans rained beer into the lower sections, I taunted them by starting a "You're Not Going to Brazil" chant. It was kind of a low blow, but they deserved it.

BRET: Watching Abby Wambach score in the 121st minute vs. Brazil in the 2011 World Cup.

WES: I know I'm not alone here, but the Donovan extra time goal against Algeria stands out the most for me. The range of feeling in those split seconds from the save to him burying the rebound was ridiculous; gut-punch to jubilation faster than you could realize.

COLIN: I'm hoping I'll gain a new one this year, but my favorite memory so far is getting up at 4:30 a.m. to watch the US beat Portugal in the 2002 World Cup. I was 16, finishing up my last couple of weeks of sophomore year of high school, and playing club soccer almost year-round. I woke up, went and washed my face to actually become coherent, and turned on the TV in our attic, so I wouldn't wake my parents -- which I did anyway as soon as we scored in the 4th minute. I was so excited I drove to school as soon as it ended and wanted to tell everyone what happened but none of my friends were there yet, because it was about 7 a.m. and school didn't start for 45 minutes. But during the game -- alone, still dark outside, flashes of the TV shining through the attic window -- I swear I felt connected, plugged in to a global socket that surged when John O'Brien stunned the world with the opening goal.

Are you prepared to take more time off if your team advances deep into the tournament?

TOM: Shit yeah I am.

MATEO: BWAHAHAHAHA. Didn't I just tell you that I root for the United States and Mexico?

CHRIS J.: Well, since I am currently unemployed I'm prepared to see this through to the bitter end. If you're hiring though, I could probably start in July.

BRET: I can't stay in Brazil if the US advances past the group stage. But I certainly will have a "meeting with a client" out of the office when they're playing. Also I will sneak out for premier matches like the semi-finals, etc.

JON: Definitely, if England progress to the later stages, I'll be watching.

JOE: I hope to have that problem.


SB Nation and KICKTV World Cup Preview

Join SB Nation's Matt Ufford, former U.S. international Jimmy Conrad, and Rachel Bonetta of KICKTV and Toronto FC TV for a full breakdown of the USA's final 23-man roster, the Group of Death, dark horses to win it all, and much, much more. Tune in at 3:00 p.m. Eastern/noon Pacific on Tuesday, June 3rd.

Producer: Matt Watson | Lead photo courtesy of Getty Images

About the Author

Matt Ufford is a featured contributor to His main passions are the NFL, the U.S. men's soccer team, and pictures of fluffy dogs. He is a veteran of several successful blogs and the Iraq War.