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Football motivates learning

David Mallows
Valoda: EN
Document available also in: FR PL HR FI


EPALE’s Thematic Coordinator David Mallows asked Karin Plötz to share her experiences with the Football Meets Culture project. Karin Plötz is the Director of LitCam – a literacy non-profit organisation. In 2006 she was the Director of the education section of the Frankfurt Book Fair, where she created and implemented the Literacy Campaign – a project designed to help reduce worldwide illiteracy.


Today, with technology and social media ever more present in our lives, we should not forget the value of sport – as a way to stay healthy, but also as a means to motivate people to engage in learning.

If you like something you will be more likely to learn more about it.

One thing that people all over the world like to do is play football. With our project Football Meets Culture we combine motivation, sport and culture. The popularity of football is crucial, because we especially want to support people from socially disadvantaged families, mostly migrants.

We started the project in 2007 in Frankfurt. 24 children were chosen, mostly from families with migrant backgrounds. They didn’t speak German well and therefore had difficulties with reading and writing and their families couldn’t help them much with their literacy. The children received two hours of football training and two hours of additional learning (competence instruction) each week and once a month they took part in a cultural event, for example a visit to a museum or a rap-poetry workshop. At the end of the project there was a football tournament in which all of the projects came together and played for the Football Meets Culture Cup.

The project has been a great success and keeps on growing. After nine years of experience, and now 23 projects in thirteen German cities with 520 children, most of them between 8 and 13 years old, we can conclude that sport does provide motivation to learn.

This success led us to adapt our project for young adult refugees in Würzburg, a small town in Bavaria. We had participants from Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iraq and Nigeria who were eager to learn how to read and write in German to progress in their vocational studies. All of them liked to play football and were fans of big European teams such as Liverpool and Barcelona. Two times a week they joined football training with a football coach from Würzburger Kickers and the training was followed by a German lesson.

The teacher reported that the participants learned better and were more interested if the theme of the learning was football. So, they talked about football rules to learn the German words for goal, penalty etc. And they used short articles about football players as reading texts. 

Through this experience we learnt that motivation and sport are crucial for these young adults as well as for the children we worked with. The motivation to join the project because of the link to football is just the first step. At the beginning participants accepted the project, because they were motivated to play football and were eager to be instructed by a football coach from a popular local soccer club. The second step is motivation to learn. The young adults wanted to learn German but it was much easier for them to learn if the subject was football. The third step was to establish a structured community feeling. And the fourth step was to nourish the curiosity of the participants by giving them new cultural experiences, like visiting a museum or painting graffiti.

We have found that the principles of Football Meets Culture work for every age group:

  1. Motivation is key: People take part because they want to do something they really like.
  2. Sport and movement: Combining learning with sport, especially team sport, is healthy and good for concentration. Sport also encourages teamwork and acceptance of rules and discipline.
  3. Cultural events awake people’s curiosity. With cultural events people get new experiences and maybe find new interests. And they can also get a better understanding of their surroundings

In our ever-changing world motivating adults to learn is of great importance. We believe that sport has a role to play in providing that motivation.

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