1. Most Popular Sport in the World
Football is, despite what some people may say, the greatest game in the world and is also by far the most popular – both in terms of participation and in viewing figures. According to FIFA’s website there are 265 million officially registered players in the world, while the weekly global TV audience for the Premier League alone have almost reached 200 million. With football becoming ever more globalised, the language needed to communicate within and about the game is increasingly becoming English.
2. The World Cup
The summer of 2010 sees the World Cup taking place in South Africa and the whole world will be watching. At the last World Cup the total TV audience reached 5.9 billion viewers. But it’s more than just the football. When we started podcasting during the 2006 German World Cup we realised that not only were listeners interested in the matches and the players but also the culture of the countries that were taking part.
Okay, so it’s not Heart of Darkness, Lord of the Rings or even Harry Potter but football works as a narrative, an ongoing process, a story. Don’t believe me? Well, every season, cup competition and tournament has a clear start, middle and end to it. There are winners and losers, heroes and villains, scandals and controversies, overseas battles and domestic struggles, not to mention the full range of emotions; including hope, disappointment, fear, relief, desolation, elation, tears and laughter at the unfolding drama. Footballers may be overpaid and lacking somewhat in intelligence but, like soap opera and film stars, they offer an escape from the ‘real’ world for millions of people. Unlike those stars on screen, however, the ending in football is never scripted.
One of the biggest complaints that teachers have about teaching English (or any other subject for that matter) is that students are not motivated enough to learn. Well, everyone has an opinion on football – even if they don’t like the game. Fans all over the world love to discuss the ‘beautiful game’, whether it is arguing over who is the best player in the league or debating if technology should be introduced into the sport people are always talking (and listening, writing and reading) about football.
5. Access to content
Football is everywhere. Traditionally, the only place you could find out about the game was on the radio or from the back pages of the newspapers. But now TV channels show hundreds of live games each season, newspapers have special football supplements, radios organise phone-ins, the Internet has millions of pages devoted to the game through blogs, polls, and of course podcasts. Turning this content into authentic materials is a great way to motivate students as it offers a connection to current topics, as well as adding variety to your classes.
6. Leo Messi, David Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo and Brazil
Although you may not know anything about the rules, the competitions or even the teams, you will surely have heard of Leo Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, David Beckham or that Brazilian football is pretty special. You can also be sure that if you are an English language teacher then your students will know about these and much more and will want to talk about football, soccer, fútbol, Футбол, futebol, Ποδόσφαιρο, calcio, サッカー, piłka nożna, 미식 축구, Fußball …
viewing figures: The numbers of people watching the games
officially registered players: Players who have signed with a club
5.9 billion viewers: 5.900.000.000 people watched the games
Heart of Darkness: Novel by Joseph Conrad (1902)
an ongoing process: Something that takes place over time
villains: Bad guys, not heroes
overseas battles and domestic struggles: Here these refer to national and international competitions
desolation: Depression, woe
football supplements: Extra parts of a newspaper dedicated to only football
devoted to: Given over to; focusing only on football