A 'beautiful game' that brings the world together
Football is played by more than 250 million players in over 200 countries, making it the world's most popular sport, so if you’re ever stuck for conversation in a far flung corner of the globe, football is a good go-to option. The English Premier League is broadcast in 212 territories around the world to an audience of 4.7 billion so mention your team and there is a strong chance people will know who you’re talking about. But it's not just about popularity - football is big business: Deloitte's Football Money League shows the top 20 richest clubs earned £3.5 billion between them in the 2010-11 season. And the world’s most valuable club, according to Forbes magazine, is Manchester United, worth a whopping £1.4 billion – that’s pretty much exactly the same as the GDP of Belize in 2010.
Start your lesson with this 5-minute clip of Abhay, a young, football-mad Hindu South African boy from Durban, who shows us round his city and its stadium, built for the 2010 World Cup:
Here's what we cover in this feature:
There are lots of facts, figures and statistics in football. This Guardian Teacher Network blog, How to teach... Euro 2012 has ideas for using football in Maths – there are resources for Geography and English too.
If the numbers given above, demonstrating the status of football, are so big as to be incomprehensible, you could use the MegaPenny Project website to help your students visualise them - or this idea from children’s author David Schwartz, who wrote How Much is a Million?, a book to help young minds understand big numbers:
"One million seconds comes out to be about 11½ days. A billion seconds is 32 years. And a trillion seconds is 32,000 years. I like to say that I have a pretty good idea what I'll be doing a million seconds from now, no idea what I'll be doing a billion seconds from now, and an excellent idea of what I'll be doing a trillion seconds from now." (From Time - How to Understand a Trillion Dollar Deficit)
- The Maths and Sport website has lots of ideas for using football in the Maths classroom for all key stages.
- Teams use a huge amount of data to inform their training and game-play, and the Guardian’s data blog has all the numbers from the 2010 World Cup.
If students love football then they might also love reading about it. The National Literacy Trust has produced a free resource based around Tom Palmer’s football books and Euro 2012. Tom Palmer’s writing includes stories on the difficulties experienced by some international players and on football in other countries.
- Fair Play is Tom Palmer's series of free activities for Key Stage 2 & 3 students exploring life and football in Ghana - it would be ideal to use this pack at the same time as reading the author’s football detective story Foul Play 3: Off Side with your students
- The Did You Know? 3 pack for KS2 & 3 students, priced at £125.00 for a class set, features ten illustrated biographies of successful, inspirational Black and Asian footballers, past and present.
Football is a truly global sport but not every country and player sees the same benefits.
- The Geographical Association have a series of ideas for using football to teach about globalisation, inequalities, remote locations and environmental impact on their Planet Sport website.
- Here's a selection of football-related lesson plans and resources produced by Geography teachers, including a fair trade footballs mystery activity.
- This BBC map shows where in the world premiership players come from (2009) and Merkador uses Google Earth to produce another visualisation, for the four biggest club.
- More than just a game of football is a resource for KS2 & 3 students - a series of activities and a thinkpiece from Tide on using international sporting events to talk about development with young people. Based on the 2010 World Cup but easily adaptable to other major sporting events.
- Playing Away is a photography project recording home-made goalposts around the world - a wonderful illustration of how football is played anywhere and everywhere. Here the artist, Neville Gabie, talks about why goalposts inspire him in this short video from the Tate. If your students are inspired too, maybe they could have a go at some goalpost art? Like these people, who have uploaded their photos to this Flickr group.
- Why not get your students to make their own football out of plastic bags, as a way to think about waste and resources? The NGO Send A Cow has produced a video showing you how.
The history of football can offer examples of society’s triumphs: black players in the FA cup as far back as the 1880s; soldiers from both sides coming together to play during the 1914 Christmas ceasefire. But also its failures: racism, violence and corruption – all have chequered the past of the ‘beautiful game’.
Early forms of football in England were played between neighbouring towns and villages. They involved an unlimited number of players struggling to move an item, including inflated animal bladders, to particular points. The game was mostly played during religious festivals, such as Christmas or Easter (Dunning, Eric. Sport Matters: Sociological Studies of Sport, Violence and Civilisation). Shrove Tuesday games have survived in a number of English towns, for example, in the Warwickshire village of Atherstone.
- The spread of football around the world, like many sports, has links to colonialism – interestingly many of the countries where the game really took hold (Central and South America, and Europe) were locations where Britain’s influence was through trade, not conquering. Some of the world's most famous clubs were founded with the help of British people living abroad in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Their names provide lasting clues as to their origins, eg AC Milan (not 'Milano'); Athletic Club de Bilbao (not 'Atlético'); River Plate (not 'Rio de la Plata); and Corinthians in São Paulo, Brazil.
- Football as an industry began in the Industrial Revolution and is closely linked with the growth of the railways - but with teams able to travel for matches, it became clear they should all be playing by the same rules... Find out more about the history of association football and its rules.
- Walter Tull was the first ever black officer in the British Army; he fought and died in World War I. He was also a footballer playing for Tottenham. The Spartacus Education website has some fascinating mini-biographies of early black footballers, which could be used for Black History Month.
- Football makes a famous appearance in the history of the First World War, when British and German soldiers played a game during the 1914 Christmas ceasefire (Eksteins, Modris. The Rites of Spring).
- An infamous image of the England team performing a Nazi salute in 1938 – sport and politics entwined. The Holocaust Educational Trust and the Football Association are currently producing a resource on the Holocaust for secondary schools. Just before the start of Euro 2012, the England squad heard the testimony of Holocaust survivor Zigi Shipper at Auschwitz – in an interview with the BBC’s Today programme, he said far more people listened to footballers than to him, so it was important they heard his story.
There are lots of topics - often covered in PSHE, Citizenship and Sociology - that could be taught with examples from football. For example, the Show Racism the Red Card DVD and teaching pack (£25) presents activities to consider and combat racism with KS2, 3 & 4 students. Further resources available at www.theredcard.org/resources. Also, the British Council's One Voice for All free online resource uses the Street Child World Cup to help teachers explore human rights; produced with support from Unicef.
- Available to watch online until 2013, Panorama’s Euro 2012: Stadiums of Hate revealing racist violence and anti-Semitism in Polish and Ukrainian football – host nations of the tournament. A linked article – Sol Campbell tells fans to stay away from the tournament.
- This case study from ActionAid describes how they are using football in HIV education and conflict resolution in Burundi and Kenya. Vision Africa have a similar programme, Kibera Football.
- Read about the history of Kibera Celtic Football Club, founded in 2009 with the incredible mission of uniting tribes to stop violence in the Kenyan elections.
- For Key Stage 3 students, Africa United is a free online resource from Film Education based on the 2010 film of the same name, which tells the story of three Rwandan children and their bid to take part in the opening ceremony of the 2010 World Cu.
- For KS 2, 3 and 4, Football and Freedom is a free online resource pack from the NUT with fun and informative activities for teaching children about South Africa through football
- There is an interesting movement encouraging fans to buy up and be involved in their local football teams, turning them into co-operatives. Read about it on the Supporters Direct website. Find out about the International Year of Cooperatives, and ideas to use it in the classroom here.
Many schools are using variations of football to compare and contrast the sport around the world and learn more about other countries. Your students could learn a bit of American football, Aussie rules or, the increasingly popular South American Futsal, played by some of the world’s greatest players in their youth. Basics and rules of the Futsal game.
The photo from Kenya at the top of the page is Football! by James Gray-King on Flickr and is used under a Creative Commons licence.