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Susan O'Rourke | December 8, 2022

This fall, people around the world are taking a global perspective as they follow the progression of the 2022 FIFA Men’s World Cup. Hosted every four years, the World Cup brings together thirty-two qualifying teams from six continents to play what is considered “the beautiful game” (and one of the most popular sport in the world) and to represent their home countries on the global stage. The tournament presents an excellent opportunity for students to engage in global learning as they reflect on the unifying power of sports, prepare for global citizenship, and even learn about issues affecting people in participating countries.

As UNESCO shares, sports are a valuable tool for “[teaching] values” that unite teammates and people across the world. UNESCO explains that “[sport] can teach values such as fairness, teambuilding, equality, discipline, inclusion, perseverance, and respect. Sport has the power to provide a universal framework for learning values, thus contributing to the development of soft skills needed for responsible citizenship.”

Learning about the World Cup and other global sporting events can help students witness the power of shared values and cooperation, even in the midst of competition. Students may be interested in the “‘absolutely fantastic’ ….sportsmanship displayed” by the Korean Republic and Turkish teams during the during the 2014 FIFA Men’s World Cup, for example. Before their match, FIFA shares, “Korea Republic’s fans had set the tone, unfurling a large Turkish flag and a banner proclaiming, ‘We are friends!’ Those supporters proved true to their warm words, too, cheering the names of the opposing players as well as their own as the teams were read out in Daegu,” the South Korean city hosting the match. Even after the Turkish team won the game, FIFA reports, “players from both sides came together….to perform a collective bow in recognition of their contribution. Sukur and team-mate Fatih Akyel also carried the Korea Republic flag on a lap of honour, while the Turkish media were as generous in their praise of the home supporters as they were of their conquering team.”

Such sporting events also provide an opportunity for students to think globally as they learn about participating countries’ cultures, including traditional sports and games recognized by UNESCO as part of the world’s “intangible cultural heritage.” These traditional sports allow students to investigate the complexity of cultural heritage, contemporary practice, and preservation of the sports. For example, educators might consider studying the UNESCO-recognized traditional sports:

  • Charrería (Mexico): “a traditional practice of livestock herding communities in Mexico. It was initially used to help herders managing livestock from different estates better coexist….Practitioners also see the tradition as a way of transferring to younger generations important social values, such as respect and equality for people in the community.”
  • Equitation (France): “Equitation in the French tradition is a school of horseback riding that emphasizes harmonious relations between humans and horses. The fundamental horse-training principles and processes are guided by non-violence and lack of constraint, blending human demands with respect for the horse’s body and mood….Although practiced throughout France and elsewhere, the most widely known community is the Cadre Noir of Saumur, based at the National School of Equitation.”
  • Kuresi (Kazakhstan): “a type of wrestling that requires players to battle it out on foot, the objective being to get the opponent’s shoulders on the ground…. [and] a national sport practiced by men and women, up to professional level. International competitions also take place, such as the annual tournament the Kazakhstan Barysy, broadcast in more than 100 countries….The practice of kuresi teaches younger generations in Kazakhstan to respect their history and culture, and aim to be like the heroic Baluans. It also helps to build tolerance, goodwill, and solidarity amongst communities.”
  • Tahteeb (Egypt): “In ancient Egypt, tahteeb was used as a form of martial arts. Its role has since changed to that of a festive game but some of the symbolism and values associated with the practice remain. Performed in front of an audience, it involves a brief, non-violent interchange between two adversaries, each wielding a long stick while folk music plays in the background.… The rules of the game are based on values such as mutual respect, friendship, courage, strength, chivalry, and pride.”


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