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02nd Jul 2018

World Cup Comments: ‘Proud dad’ Peter Schmeichel’s support of Kasper speaks to all of us in a powerful way

Melissa Reddy


In defeat, Denmark still provided a triumphant portrait of one of life and football’s overarching themes: a parent’s love for their child…

This was finally it. The moment. A moment to cut through the nothingness that had unwelcomingly followed the first five wondrous minutes of the fixture, during which both sides scored their only goal.

With extra time dissipating, Denmark’s Mathias Jorgensen had impeded Ante Rebic just as he was to slide in the winner for Croatia to catapult them into the World Cup quarter-finals.

There was no need for VAR. It was clearly and obviously a penalty.

And so all the anticipation, anxiety and expectation of two nations was funnelled into 12 yards separating Luka Modric and Kasper Schmeichel.

The clock read 116 minutes, but time seemed to stop for the taker and the goalkeeper tasked with thwarting him. Eyes should have been transfixed on the pair, but they were drawn to a figure in the stands wearing his every emotion so explicitly.

You couldn’t escape his anguish when the spot kick was awarded, as he released a guttural ‘nooooooooo’ that wasn’t audible on television and yet still screamed out at you.

As Modric stood over the ball, the animated man – Kasper’s dad and Manchester United legend Peter – placed his palms over his cheeks in a state of unease.

Croatia’s captain then struck his penalty to Schmeichel’s left and the keeper, who faked to go one way but dived the other, smothered the effort in his midriff.

As the Leicester City gloveman was mobbed by his team-mates, Peter’s palms left his cheeks and were rolled into fists as he lifted off his seat, letting out a shattering ‘yessssssssssssss’ in the process.

Again, there was no sound to accompany his response and again, there didn’t need to be.

The pride in his son was full-throated and translated around the world.

Denmark’s No.1 went on to save two more penalties in the shootout that followed, but Croatia progressed 3-2. The enduring images of the encounter, however, will be Peter’s catalogue of emotions as he metaphorically held Kasper’s hand from a distance, undertaking the experience with him.

“Look at that, a proud dad,” Gary Neville offered on commentary as millions shared in the personal bond, an episode that will stick in minds because the parent-child relationship is the axis of life, and is so often central in football too.

Raheem Sterling is unequivocal on the driving force of his career: his mom and his two kids.

Switzerland-born Ivan Rakitic, who scored the winning penalty for Croatia in the shootout, explains his international choice via a childhood memory that still makes him smile now: his father slicing open a box with two white-and-red checkered shirts for him and his brother. 

Granit Xhaka puts his mental fortitude down to his dad, who spent three-and-a-half years in jail as a political prisoner in Yugoslavia. Brazil’s Paulinho details how he would’ve quit the game altogether at 19 if it wasn’t for his parents.

In 2013-14, as swashbuckling Liverpool went so close to tasting Premier League success, then-manager Brendan Rodgers would read a letter from a player’s mum in the dressing room before kick off.

Philippe Coutinho pinned his seminal display in the 3-2 victory over Manchester City at Anfield, in which he scored what Luis Suarez selected as his goal of the season, on hearing his mother’s words before heading into the tunnel.

These stories flow and finesse a myriad of feelings because they mean so much, because they speak to our own connection with our guardians or offspring.

Peter Schmeichel was “lost for words” this morning, but he doesn’t need any – he emphatically communicated in a universal language.

And Kasper may still be “gutted beyond words” today, but he has the eternal comfort of achieving what we all continuously endeavour towards: making our parents proud.