The World Cup: The best teaching aid


The World Cup is many things – bread and circuses, the opium of the people, a vile FIFA obscenity, an orgy of emotional incontinence, a Baudrillardian Spectacle hem hem and the exploitation of the wretched of the earth. Apart from that it’s fabulous.

Apart from that it’s fabulous.

The problem is the footie – I love it. It’s all a glorious distraction, the poetry of time and space – and a terrific teaching aid, especially for us inner city folk. Our much maligned multiculturalism can be celebrated. We can talk about subjects like economics, linguistics, politics, poetry and philosophy. We can festoon our walls with flags, charts and icons. We come from most of the 32 nations and follow proceedings at many cerebral levels. 

Geena likes Ronaldo, when he removes his shirt, Sabrina wants to cuddle Raheem Sterling, Bella loves Neymar’s dreamy eyes. I can drone on about reducing men to sex objects and Rhapsody agrees. Ronald Crumlin gives us an aficionado’s talk on triangles, transitions, tika taka, catenaccio, pressing, invisible number 9s, and various formations of 3-5-2, 4-3-3, and 4-2-1-3. It beats my lessons on the iambic pentameter – even Cordelia’s impressed. 

I lament the perils of raw, unregulated capitalism.

“Leave it out, sir! Commie bollox!” says Dave Mania. “You’re not meant to brainwash me.”

Chance would be a fine thing.

We can discuss language – jargon, stereotyping, euphemism, cliché and the usual Colemanballs – like “taking positives, digging deep, wanting it, turning up, winning ugly, parking buses, not liking it up them, and those samba rhythms”.

We put them on the wall and tick them off. We sometimes go to the North playground and watch Shaka and Teodora do half a million keepie-uppies and catchie-neckies. Why isn’t it a GCSE, sir? Indeed. They’d get A*s. I join in. Maybe I can’t teach, but I can do 25 on my head. Pathetic.

A level is more sophisticated. We watch the phenomenal City of God and invent English dream teams – Milton’s in goal, Shelley’s a midfield visionary, Emily Brontë a midfield psycho, Marlowe an impact sub, and Byron’s on the bench, what with being a bit “one footed”. What larks! It won’t get them into Russell groups, but it’s more fun than the Synoptic Paper.

We do a little aesthetics and ponder on the sheer beauty of that Pirlo dummy. Genius. Poetry in motion! And, finally, some philosophy: “Beauty comes first, victory is secondary. What matters is joy.” Aristotle? Socrates? The Greek Big Wigs? Not quite. The sublime Brazilian midfielder, Brasileiro Sampaio de Souza Vieira de Oliveira. “Socrates” for short. Football eh? It reaches those parts the national curriculum just can’t.

  • Ian Whitwham is a former inner city London teacher.


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