Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Football as a tool for education

After a two year absence since the last major tournament, it is time to welcome you back, to the blog which will hopefully entertain and inform at the same time about the upcoming Euro 2012 Football championship which starts this Friday and is being hosted jointly by Poland and the Ukraine. Today’s posting will not actually have that much to do with the tournament itself but is going to focus on a subject of which the title would seem to be an oxymoron, “Football as a tool for education”. However before we get into that, just a few reminders about the blog, 1) It is not and will never be politically correct. 2) It will be full of racial stereotypes and nationalistic jingoism. 3) It is all meant to be a bit of fun with the added advantage of letting those especially American persons and other types who don’t follow football to be au fait with something their children are probably interested in. Numbers one and two reflect the nature of the game, which as has been written before is incredibly tribal in nature and tends to bring out the basest instincts of those who watch it. So education through football, it hardly seems possible. Until the last world cup in South Africa 2010 most people would have agreed. However the TV networks gave extensive coverage to South Africa’s troubled past focusing on the struggle against Apartheid and having excellent features for example on Robben Island, the brutal prison off the coast of Cape Town where Mr. Mandela was incarcerated for years. The internet played an important role and this was as especially effective as Football junkies will read and watch anything in the run up to and during a tournament. I for example learnt something following an interesting article about the battle of Spion Kop during the Boer War (1899-1902) Kop is Afrikaans for hill and that is what the famous stand “The KOP” which is in Anfield the home of Liverpool is named after When I was a lad, Geography was about places and what better method then learning European geography than by following the fortunes of British teams as they played in the then 3 European club competitions. So what I hear you say, if you know in which country Split or Craiova are located but all knowledge is good and you never know when you may need it. This could be especially useful for our American cousins, many of whom think that mosCOW is in Idaho, that it may be, but not the one with the Kremlin and Red Square. Fast forward to June 2012, the world is focusing on Poland and the Ukraine. The last time the world really focused on these nations, was between 1942-45 when Nazi Germany was implementing the Final Solution or as it is now better known the Holocaust in those said countries. One of the biggest issues in the build to the tournament has been of the apparent endemic racism seen at grounds across the 2 nations. Black players have bananas thrown at them and the crowd make monkey noises when they touch the ball. One particularly volatile member of the Italian national team Mario Balotelli has threatened to walk off if this behaviour manifests itself while he is playing. “Super Mario” is more likely to get himself sent off than walk off as anyone who has followed him this season will know. Of course the Holocaust is a very touchy subject in Poland and the Ukraine, the Poles definitely consider themselves victims as well. President Obama really put his foot in it last week, when in a ceremony to honour a polish resistance fighter who first brought news of the atrocities being carried out in the camps, he (Obama) referred to the Polish Death Camps. Now while in a literal sense he was correct, the Poles lost no time in demanding a retraction and an apology. They pointed out to President Obama, that the camps happened to be located in Poland but were run by the Nazis and that 3 out of the 6 million Jews who died were Poles and that at least another 3 million Poles died at the hands of the German and Soviet invaders. The Ukrainians are even more sensitive as their record of collaboration with the Nazis does them no credit. Four of the 14 visiting nations are slated to visit Auschwitz, The Germans have already been, no I mean they were there again on Friday, a delegation from the squad went to lay wreaths, there was mixed reaction to this in Germany. Some thought it was an important message, while others were worried how it would affect the performance of the team. Are the Germans making excuses already? Italy, Holland and England are also slated to visit. The visit of England is the most interesting. The squad has already been spoken too by two survivors, to quote Steven Gerrard the England captain “It was pretty amazing, we all sat there in stunned silence, you could have heard a pin drop while they talked to us”. It is even more amazing if you think that the average footballer can’t sit still for more than 10 minutes. England are going to be accompanied on their visit by Avram Grant the Ex Israel and Chelsea manager a very well known figure in English football and himself a child of Polish survivors. The BBC, not normally known for their sympathy to the Jews produced an excellent podcast detailing a visit to Auschwitz by Grant accompanied by a BBC reporter. The talkbacks were unbelievable. This is bringing the Holocaust to an audience who know nothing about it and who are very much in need of finding out about it. The link to the broadcast is here http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/5lspecials. The English Football association is going to produce a DVD detailing the visit of the squad which it intends to use as a tool to combat racism in football. So there you go, football can be a positive influence as well. The next post will preview the first round of matches and will appear on Friday, the opening day of the tournament. Comments are appreciated


  1. Great blog!! Finally something to get excited about for the summer!

    England will get knocked out at the group stage, Murray will get pasted in the semis at Wimbledon and Lee Westood will miss the cut!!

    Thankfully we will have Wiggi to keep us going!

  2. so murray didn't even make the semis.

    england will not leave up to their top 10 in the world ranking.

    but wiggi needs to change that picture