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How can children learn from the World Cup? What does it teach us?

World Cup 2018 coming soon.......

With the opening games of World Cup 2018 coming ever closer, and sadly starting on June 14th after we have finished for the year at ISD, it seems important to share some thoughts about the most watched global sporting event and its influence on international mindedness and cultural togetherness. Neil Bunting is a friend and colleague who is now a founding Principal of a new International School in China. He has kindly given us permission to share his thought provoking article. It speaks to the lessons we can learn from this wonderful festival of football and how we can enjoy the spectacle in more ways than simply following our own national team, if indeed they have even qualified. Senegal of course will be there in Russia and it is exciting to be able to feel somewhat part of their journey as a team and a country.  - Paul Lennon, IB Coordinator

The article was originally posted here ( you must be logged in to LinkedIn to view):

What are the educational lessons learnt from the World Cup?

Like many football fanatics, I am getting excited – and distracted from everything else – by thoughts of the World Cup. My summer has now got that bit more complex by working out how, where and at what time I will see the games.

Certainly I will see some of them in the early hours of the morning in China. I am sure the locals here will embrace the carnival spirit of the event. Asia is challenging for football viewers, and the memories of Italy’s last successful World Cup win is linked for me with sleepless nights in Jakarta, and I do remember two of my Indonesian reception staff – who had no interest in football prior to the competition – also staying up all night because they had backed France and Italy to win and they were playing each other in the final.

The World Cup can be great fun. For families, for example, I know people who cook cultural football theme nights, with drinks to match, according to who is playing on a particular day. It’s also a great way to unify staff, students and indeed the whole school community at the end of a school year. It is also a great opportunity to develop international mindedness, through learning about lots of different countries, particularly the new teams getting involved.

Supporters do a lot to make a World Cup special. The Brazilian dancing, the Dutch orange, the Mexican wave, for example. Learning about the so called ‘under dogs ‘and the surprise packages, like Iceland who are coming this year after last time at the Euros, where they won hearts and minds through their amazing support – who will forget the ‘thunder clap’ – and their brave team’s performances. This year they are back, and expectations will have changed. In the past, the Korea and Japan World Cup of 2002- which was so successful – will be remembered less for Brazil winning again – although we always love their football philosophy – but more for putting Korea and Japan on the football map.

The South Africa World Cup, 2010, will be remembered for the colour of the occasion, and the atmosphere, and for me that year the viewing times were perfect in Oman. No sleepless nights. I remember watching most of the games in the British Embassy, in a place aptly called: The Thirsty Camel.

Inevitably, there has been ‘villains’ and unsporting moments that have lingered long in the memory. I didn’t see 66, and Rattin the brutal Argentinian defender – the first World Cup I remember was the amazing Cruyff inspired Dutch team of 74: total football that didn’t win. But I do remember the Zidane head butt incident, the spitting match between Germany and Holland, the Maradona ‘hand of God’ goal, Beckham’s red card controversy and of course, Suarez and the biting drama from the last World Cup. These things take up too much media time, and along with countless adverts, and the companies that are wrongly allowed to sponsor a sports competition, these things can deflect you from forgetting the pure joy of Van Basten’s wonder goal, Maradona’s second goal against England, so many Brazil goals, Bergkamp, Cruyff’s turn, Bank’s save from Pele and all those other amazing football genius moments.

What is hoped is that any World Cup celebrates intercultural relations and international mindedness. Football is about forgetting about politics and obstacles, and seeing fans and teams together, enjoying a summer festival. There are many reasons to be optimistic this will be a great tournament with the exciting young teams of Brazil, Germany, Spain and France. Although it is a shame neither Italy or Netherlands are there. As the saying goes, a World Cup without Italy is like a pizza without cheese.

Of course, talking about underdogs, I wish England were an underdog, then English fans wouldn’t be so disappointed, and Iceland wouldn’t come as a shock. The big surprise package this year is Panama. It is fantastic when these countries qualify. Surely England cannot lose to them? Don't bet against it. We will find out in June.

I hope Russia will be a fantastic success, remembered for football and not problems. I am sure it will. Enjoy it wherever you are watching it. Some schools put on big screens to see the games. Talk to your students about it and build up their excitement, boys and girls, the women’s game is now firmly established and there are many reasons to be positive about the positive influence football can have, despite the crazy money, agents’ hype and negative publicity.

Of course football shouldn't just be an armchair sport. Go and watch it live and savour the atmosphere if you can. Celebrate sport of any kind for encouraging active children who will go out in the street, after watching the game: the spirit remains the same, kids emulating their heroes, pretending they are: Pele, Maradona, Michael Owen shimmering through the Argentinian defence, or perhaps Harry Kane this year. 

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