“Fantastic! What an opening,” I yelled when the final whistle blew over the television.
“Both were delightful games to watch, especially since the host countries, Australia and New Zealand, won!” Ms. Claus clapped her hands and danced around the room. “World Cup games are so exciting.”
“This time the Women’s World Cup has been expanded to 32 teams. Should be interesting to see if the US becomes the first team ever, men or women, to win three world championships in a row. We’re looking at a thrilling July and August!” I shouted and joined Ms. Claus in her happy dance.
“So does this mean FIFA, the world governing body for football, is off your Naughty List?” Anya asked with a giggle when she and I sat down to catch our breath.
“The way I see it,” I snapped, “when FIFA held the Men’s World Cup during December last year, I had no time to watch the games.” I gave my wife a little glare then continued, “But they can get off the Naughty List when men and women soccer players are equally paid. Women work just as hard, if not harder, than the men do, and deserve the same pay.”
“I agree.” Anya smiled and settled into her chair to finish reading over the list of suggestions to improve mailroom efficiency. “Well, you better get back to work. The elves might think you’re goofing off.”
Closing our door behind me, I made my way to the kitchen for some cookies. When I entered, I heard Hanna singing as she cleared off the tables. “Well, you seem exceptionally happy.”
“Good morning, Santa!” she cried. “Who wouldn’t be. The Women’s World Cup started today, and you know how much elves love Jalkapallo!”
“You know we all speak English, you don’t have to use the Finnish word for football.”
“I know, but it seems appropriate since I am from Korvatunturi Mountain in Lapland, Finland. After all, elves began playing long before the rest of the world did, and called it Tyalie,” Hanna proudly announced and looked at her watch. “Sorry, Santa, but I need to finish and get to my game.”
“All the female elves have decided to create our own World Cup, while the real one is going on, and I’m on the US team.”
“That sounds like fun! Ms. Claus and I will come watch.”
“Great, but remember, we are playing by Tyalie rules, so sit by an elf who can help you understand Elven soccer.” Hanna grinned and rushed out through the kitchen.
“Hmm, I thought all soccer was played by the same rules,” I murmured, picked up the phone and tapped in Ms. Claus’s number. “Meet me outside by the western corral. You and I are about to see the Elven women play soccer.”
Anya put aside her work, slipped on her coat and made her way to the western exit. Spotting me, she called out, “This better be good,” and took a seat next to me. Focusing on the game taking place in front of us, she shook her head in confusion. “Wait a minute why are there only nine players on a side?”
“Hi Ms. Claus.” Bernard turned around and smiled. “You and Santa are about to learn the differences between Tyalie and world soccer. First of all, since the elves are smaller, there are only nine players. Secondly, the field size is reduced,” he explained.
My wife gave me a bewildered look. I shrugged my shoulders and whispered, “Don’t know anymore than you, so let’s just watch.”
Anya nodded. Together we turned to continue watching the elves play Tyalie.
Soon we were cheering on Hanna as she moved the ball towards the goal. “Bernard,” I shouted and jumped up to point at the field. “Someone forgot to mark the penalty box.”
“Calm down, Santa,” Bernard responded laughing. “There is no penalty box.”
I felt relieved. “That’s certainly different, and would eliminate all the arguing over whether a foul should be a penalty kick.”
“You and Ms. Claus will also notice that the goal box is larger and only the goalkeeper is allowed in it.”
“So, all the changes have to do with the field?” asked Anya.
“Not exactly….” Bernard began and then started to cheer when the US elves caused the ball to go out of bounds. “Watch this.”
Ms. Claus and I noticed that Lyra on the Finnish team kicked rather than threw the ball back into play. Another Finnish player took possession, dribbled the ball down field, and passed it to another player.
“You see, at least two players from the same team,” Bernard continued, “have to touch the ball on the attacking side of the field, before anyone can take a shot.”
Both Anya and I nodded. “OK, I get that, but where’s the referee?” Ms. Claus asked.
“Well yes. You need a neutral person to make sure the game is played fairly.”
“Santa? Ms. Claus? How long have you been working with elves?”
Confused, both of us looked at one another. “Centuries,” I replied, not sure what point Bernard was trying to make.
“When have you ever known us to cheat or argue with each other? Yes, we bicker, but we avoid serious arguments. It’s just not the Elven way.”
Anya groaned as I tried to apologize. “Of course, sorry about that.” Embarrassed, I changed the subject. “So, you don’t even have fouls?”
“Of course, we do.” Bernard shook his head. “Santa, you know that elves can make mistakes. In Tyalie, we just admit it and the other team gets a free kick. Now can we just watch the game.”
I could tell that Bernard was starting to lose patience, so Anya and I turned to enjoy the game, saving any questions for later.
When the game ended in a 2-2 tie, I shouted, “Well played. Congratulations!!!”
“We enjoyed the game,” Ms. Claus hollered over the loud cheering, “and love how all of you worked through your disagreements on the field.”
“No wonder I choose elves to work with us at the North Pole.” I held up my hands for silence. “Your honesty, hard work, and willingness to settle problems has made the North Pole a wonderful place to work and live.”
While the elves applauded, Bernard reminded them of the celebration in the dining hall where Blanche and her staff were serving hot chocolate and cookies.
Ms. Claus and I let the roaring crowd march down the hallway ahead of us while we followed. “I do wish children could see what it looks like when the elves work things out.” I sighed and shook my head.
“Santa, you know as well as I do that children are not like the elves. They have to make mistakes so they learn from them,” Anya remarked. “Then they can improve and grow up to become good adults.”
“You’re right.” I stopped and gave my wife a hug. “I always remind the children that one bad thing does not get you on the Naughty List.” Then I dropped my head and murmured, “But I still feel bad for not understanding why elves didn’t need a referee.”
“Don’t worry about that Santa and appreciate what we got to see, our first Tyalie game.” Anya chuckled and slid her arm through mine. “Besides, even Santa can learn from his mistakes.”
Notes From Santa
I hope you enjoyed today’s story. Stories are posted on the 1st and 3rd Saturday of each month, except December. Santa’s next story will be posted on Saturday August 19, 2023. If you have any comments or if there is something you would like me to tell you about, please feel free to leave me a comment. Until the next time . . .
To read about why Association Football is called Soccer in the U.S. please check out