How a Boston father and son ended up with an iconic World Cup souvenir
"What would you do if you caught a ball?"
For Kevin Treanor, it started in the way many sports stories begin. He just wanted to fulfill the wish of his son.
“When Brazil got the World Cup, my son said to me, ‘Dad, will you take me to the World Cup?’ And I said of course.”
The Irish owner of several Boston area restaurants and pubs, including the soccer-obsessed Phoenix Landing in Central Square, Treanor is no stranger to attending World Cups. He’s been to “four or five” in his years as a fan of the game, though wasn’t necessarily sure his son would maintain his fervor about going to Brazil in 2014.
“But he kept asking,” Treanor recalled, “so eventually we had to go.”
It was this which led Kevin and his son, Oisín, to Brazil for the World Cup, and into the setting of a national (soccer) tragedy. They would walk – or perhaps, more fittingly, run – away with a famous souvenir.
Through a connection, Kevin was able to procure tickets to the 2014 World Cup semifinal, a savory soccer matchup between Germany and hosts Brazil. It promised to be a classic. Oisín, noticing the proximity of their seats to the goal (being only a few rows back), asked a prescient question.
“We were really early getting there, so we were talking and my son asked, ‘What would you do if you caught a ball?’” Kevin remembered.
The thought stuck with Kevin, though the answer was theoretically a simple one. Almost universally, fans aren’t allowed to keep game balls in soccer. Unlike baseball or hockey, they aren’t simply tossed away. Security retrieves the ball from fans, and that’s usually that.
Whatever thought Kevin and Oisín might’ve had about getting a ball was swept from their minds by the cataclysmic game which played out in front of them. The hosts were humiliated by the eventual champions.
What began with an early – though not ruinous – goal from Germany turned into an avalanche of unanswered scoring against the shambolic Brazilians. A mesmerizing four-goal salvo from Germany in just eight minutes escalated the lead to an unredeemable 5-0 first half deficit.
Two more goals, including an especially emphatic volley from Germany’s André Schürrle, took the tally to 7-0 with only a few minutes remaining.
“The Brazilian fans were so mad,” Kevin said. “They even started cheering the Germans when they scored.”
Amid the shocking proceeding, one event still hadn’t occurred. No missed shots had drifted up into the crowd near Kevin or Oisín. A true mishit was required.
Happily, Brazilian forward Bernard stepped into the picture.
“It was Bernard in the 87th or 88th minute with a typical bad shot over the goal, and it was coming right into my hands,” Kevin recalled. But he thought he’d missed his chance.
“A guy got up right in front of me and tipped it right out of my hands. I was so [angry] at the guy.”
Fuming from his apparently missed opportunity, Kevin got a tap on the shoulder.
“Dad,” Oisín told his father, “I got the ball.”
“It was a horrible kick,” Oisín filled in, explaining the events from his own perspective, “and I remember the guy dropped [the ball] right below in the seat and I grabbed it.”
After wrestling the ball away from other fans, they hid it as fast as possible.
“I had a Red Sox backpack and an Irish flag behind the goal,” said Kevin. “My cousins all saw me when there were corner kicks. And I put the backpack around Oisín and the ball in there with the flag around it.”
The only concern they had was that security would track them down and demand the ball back. But Kevin quickly realized these weren’t normal circumstances.
“There was a steward, or what do you call it here? Security, and he was close to us, but he couldn’t leave the gate. So then I started thinking, ‘We can get this out of here!’”
Thinking back, Kevin knows that the setting (Brazil losing by an unprecedented margin), was uniquely helpful.
“It was mayhem,” he recalled. “But that was our only moment, because it was the only ball to go into the crowd in the whole game.”
Oisín had a more succinct explanation for getting away with the ball.
“Even the security guards couldn’t believe what they were seeing.”
The two managed to get out of the famous Maracanã Stadium, game-used ball still in their possession. As Kevin happily points out, to this day it carries the authentic scuff mark created by Schürrle’s goal (which ricochetted off the post). It’s a special souvenir that will forever represent a shared memory of one of the World Cup’s iconic (and infamous) semifinals.
“We legged it out,” Kevin remembered of their exit from the stadium. Yet even in their hour of soccer tragedy, the Brazilians were still good hosts.
“We were walking for miles to get back to where we were staying, and these Brazilians go, ‘Are you lost?’ I said where we were going and they said, ‘Oh, we live in Sao Paulo, we’ll give you a ride in.’ It was very nice of them, I’m friends with some of them on Facebook still.”