South Bay family travels to Qatar for the 2022 World Cup

Monday's World Cup match between Team USA and Wales will mark the achievement of a major bucket list item for one set of South Bay parents, and the beginning of a lifetime's worth of memories for their children.

Olly Bayliss isn’t just obsessed with soccer jerseys. But as a former soccer player-turned-coach, it’s the sport itself that makes his heart race.

"We’re packing for the World Cup, going to Qatar," he said Friday, as packed suitcases in his North San Jose garage.

The 8,100-mile journey begins with repeated agony. As a boy, the Welsh-born Bayliss would watch his team stymied every four years in its attempt to qualify for the World Cup. Wales hasn’t seen this international stage since 1958.

"For me, Wales was never there. So it’s hard to support a team," he said.

For his fiancee, Linda Swan, there's been nothing but frustration. Her native Australia has qualified but never seen much success.

This combination led to an unlikely long-odds personal bet between the two.

"We made a pact, I don’t know maybe we had a few too many beers, back in May, and not all of the teams had qualified. And Australia and Wales were the last two to qualify. And we said ‘if they both qualify, we’ll go,’" said Swan.

Team Australia won into the international tourney first. Then in June, a Wales 1-nil win, after a deflected own-goal by Team Ukraine, secured their bid. This double dose of good luck had this family of four flying 13 hours, from San Francisco to Doha, Qatar. They’ll see a week’s worth of matches, starting with Wales versus the USA, and then Australia versus France.

"Ausie, Ausie, ausie.. oy, oy, oy!," yelled Swan in anticipation of the opening draw.

The couple’s two sons, Oliver, 11 and Alex, 13, are also excited for the once-in-a-lifetime trip.

"It’s all going to be very exciting. And it’s going to be very emotional for some," said Oliver, as he fidgeted in his seat. 

"I’m probably just looking forward to just going there. And I know they have a bunch of very strict laws, Qatar does, but we just gotta be safe," Alex said.

Bayliss said a trip like this costs a family of four tens of thousands of dollars, similar to investing in a new car.

His wife is on-board and said after the COVID shutdown, they wanted to return to international travel. And the World Cup provided the needed pull.

"There is this draw to patriotism. And I’ll even extend it a little bit further, to perhaps nationalism as well. There is this allure to support and rally around your home country. And if by chance you do have the economic means to travel and go see them, it’s just gonna create that much more of an explosive experience that I’m sure will be remembered for a lifetime," said Dr. Shaun Fletcher, a public relations & sport communication expert at San Jose State University.

For Bayliss, the final frantic moments of packing and preparing have overshadowed the fun that’s on the horizon.

"I don’t know if it’s sunk in yet. Until you get the suitcases on the plane, it doesn’t sink in," he said.

By match time half a world away, the spectacle and thrill of the World Cup will be close enough for these four San Joseans to feel for the rest of their lives.

Jesse Gary is a reporter based in the station's South Bay bureau. Follow him on Twitter @JesseKTVU and Instagram @jessegontv.