In this day and age, super television marketing and financial investment in the game of football has created a generation of fanatical support for European football teams such as FC Barcelona, Real Madrid FC, Arsenal FC, Manchester United and Chelsea FC, among others.
The English Premier League has been elevated to such a high level of personal endearment that I can swear to having been asked to mention which team I support in the English Premier League more than what my middle name is. Former diehard fans of our own clubs like Rayon Sports or APR FC can now name all the current and potential players of Manchester United without much trouble.
On days when there is a big game involving clubs like Arsenal, Barcelona or Manchester United or Chelsea the following day’s main topic is already set out in stone. Many of our FM radio station presenters will continue on the irrelevant path by asking callers to talk about a game that took place millions of miles away from Kigali.
In the school setting, students especially the boys will spend any minute they can get to discuss which footballer played well or who failed to score a penalty. Arguments often take a personal tone with those who support a particular team speaking in the first person singular voice.
I used to marvel at the use of statements like, “You have never beaten me at home” by one supporter of a team whose players may find trouble tracing most African countries on the map. But at the end of the day this passion can be tapped by a wise teacher and put to very good use.
I remember years ago I had an adult English class whose members were afraid to speak English for fear of making mistakes. After trying to get them to speak more often with little success, I decided to employ a trick of dragging them into random arguments or debates.
For instance, I would suddenly tell them how I went to a restaurant and did not like the food. Then I would say something like,” I think Rwandans do not know how to cook”. Then all of a sudden the class would turn into a busy court room with each struggling to speak out for Rwanda – in English. The urge to defend the cooking of their mothers, sisters or their own was enough to get them talking.
In the same light, any teacher who wants to get their students talking can walk into class a day after a big match and say something like, ‘‘Manchester United can never defeat Barcelona, only Chelsea can do that’’. In a flash you are likely to have a very participatory debate that may get those students who have never said anything struggling to stand up for their team.
Before going straight into what you had planned to teach you can just ask one student who you are sure loves football to tell you what he thought about last evening’s game. The whole point with such a strategy is to build on the interests of your students to get them to open up and speak about something they are passionate about.
If you want them to do a group task effectively, tell them to form groups using names like Manchester, Arsenal, Chelsea and Barcelona then sit back and watch how the passion for their beloved teams is infused into the tasks before them. A student who loves Arsenal so much is likely to answer with more determination in a bid to help his team win whatever task or contest they are competing in.
Teachers have to always be creative so as to ensure that learning is a fun experience for their students. Students are likely to learn more if they can enjoy the process of learning. Creating that lovely learning experience is what we call a teachable moment. Make use of it.