We are the Best! – Defining nationalism by looking at popular culture examples

Marcel J.M. Put, History Teacher, the Netherlands

This practice uses historic football pictures to learn about and recognize the characteristics of nationalism. In connection to this activity, students will learn to ask different kinds of questions about the sources, organizing the sources and formulating a hypothesis about them. The activity has different difficulty levels, includes several assessment rubrics, and can be easily modified. It can be used to introduce the topic of nationalism, or to conclude a module on it.

In the image: Athletic Club Bilbao and Real Sociedad carrying the Ikurinna, the Basque flag, before a football match between those two Basque teams in San Sebastian, Basque Country, Spain in 1976.
Image by Argia.eus under CC BY-SA 4.0. Retrieved on Wikimedia Commons.

The practice

The main goal of this practice is to address nationalism through football, and to recognize characteristics of nationalism in historic football sources. It has been developed to use with students aged 12-18, who will:

  • Learn about how nationalism can be expressed;
  • Learn to recognise nationalism in historical sources;
  • Learn the difference between political and football nationalism;
  • Learn to question and analyse sources.

This practice helps to promote inclusivity and multiperspectivity while tackling discrimination and inequality.

About the author

Marcel J.M. Put is an independent historical researcher and writer on historical subjects. From 1998 until 2022 he was an Economics and History teacher at SVOPL (Secondary Education Foundation Parkstad Limburg) and between 2000 and 2004 also a teacher trainer. He has been involved in the Football Makes History project with EuroClio.

Background to this practice

This practice has been developed by Marcel J.M. Put within the framework of the Football Makes History project, which is co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union as part of the Football History for Inclusion project.

The project aims to promote multiperspectivity, tackle sensitive and controversial issues and make history relevant and accessible.

The practice step by step

The practice is implemented in the classroom. It is a combination of lessons, independent work and group work. There are some preparations required on the part of the teacher:

  • find a video of a national football team singing their anthem
  • find photos of football fans expressing their support for their nation in several ways. Copy them for the students.
  • find photos of national football teams containing expression of nationalism (e.g. national symbols on the jerseys, the salute in Nazi-Germany, or under Francisco Franco in Spain, …). Make some copies of these for the students.
  • Print out the worksheets and the Student information sheet, available below.

Tip: use a lamination machine to make the pictures last longer and label them with a letter or a number. In this way, you can repeat the activity with several classrooms.

Once the preparations are finished, the practice is broadly divided in four activities, which can be adapted to the specific classroom context:

  • Introduction (10-15 min): Looking at a football example, define together ‘nationalism’.
  • Assignment 1. (10-20 min.): Identify different ways of expressing nationalism.
  • Assignment 2. (20-25 min.): Working with the sources found in the preparation phase, identify examples of nationalism.
  • Conclusions (10 min.): reflect with students on lessons learned.

There are 3 extra assignments if there is time and interest.


The practice step by step

Introduction (10-15 min):  Looking at a football example, define together ‘nationalism’.

Step 1: Tell the students that they are about to watch a short video and that they have to watch closely so they can describe it to the classroom and identify what it was about

Step 2: Show a short video clip of a national football team singing the national anthem and the people in the stadium waving national flags. You can use a clip of your own national team, or a clip from a famous game, or a clip from the most recent game played in a tournament.

Step 3: Ask your students “What did you see?”. Ask several students to describe the video with their own words, and ask them to reflect on why were people in the video behaving like they were. You want your students to reach this conclusion: footballers are going to play for their country and are proud to do so; their fellow country(wo)men are cheering them and showing from which country they are / which country they support.


“I was born and raised 5 kilometers from the Dutch-German border. We always had German D-Marks at hand because we went shopping in Germany. Language wasn’t a problem. The Germans understood our dialect and because I grew up watching German television I understood and spoke German at an early age. Now I have family and friends all over Europe and speak several European languages. I consider myself to be a European. But there are times when I feel mainly, or rather exclusively, Dutch, especially at sporting events, such as football matches. It is a phenomenon I also see in others. I started to wonder where this sense of belonging to a nation comes from. How does it make people, even those who consider themselves to be Europeans or world citizens, like myself, think about their country: ’We are the best!’ And is this thought dangerous? Does it divide people?

Because students struggle with the concept of nationalism (maybe even more in the Netherlands then elsewhere because the Dutch pretend not to be nationalistic at all) the first step to approach this idea of a nation is to look for its characteristics. That’s what these lessons are about.” – Marcel.

Step 4. Ask your students “What is nationalism?”, and write their answers on the board. Together, try to reach a definition. Alternatively, you can write the definition of nationalism used by your textbook or teaching material and ask your students to connect it to the conversation they just had.

Step 5: Now, ask your students to answer again to the first question (“what did you see in the video?”). Discuss with them if what they saw can be considered an expression of nationalism.


Assignment 1. (10-20 min.): Identify different ways of expressing nationalism.

Step 1: Ask your students to reflect on at least 5 different ways in which nationalism can be expressed. Give them around 5 minutes to reflect by themselves, and ask them to write down their ideas in their notebook or on a piece of paper. Note that if you wish to collect students’ answers at the end of the lesson to assess their work, then you should let them know now that they should use a clean slate of paper and write their name on it.

Step 2: Make a collective list of ways of expressing nationalism, mentioned by the students. Ask students if they agree / do not agree with each other, and moderate the discussion. Ultimately, you wish to have a list of features that most students agree with.

Tip! You can work on your collective list in two different ways, depending on the size of your classroom and on whether all your students feel comfortable in sharing and intervening.

Approach 1.   Ask students to simply take the floor and share what they wrote down. Write their words on the board for everyone to see. If you are doing your lesson online, you can use a wordcloud programme to collect all the ideas (such as this: https://www.mentimeter.com/templates/education – template Language Class). Note that in this approach it is likely that after a couple of minutes all the most obvious answers will be on the board. Then, you can ask students if they have something to add, or add expressions of nationalism that shouldn’t be left out yourself.

Approach 2.    Divide students in groups of 3 or 4 and ask them to discuss their ideas in the group. Ask them to put together a list of the 5 ways in which nationalism can be expressed that they all agree on. Then, every group shares their final list with the rest of the classroom, and you can follow the steps of approach one.

        We suggest that you use Approach 2 if you are not sure that all your students would feel comfortable in sharing with the whole classroom, or if you have some students that tend to claim all attention during plenary work. Approach 2 will help you give each students a fair chance to be heard.


Assignment 2: Working with the sources found in the preparation phase, identify examples of nationalism. (20 – 25 min)

In this phase, students look for examples of nationalism in the sources, connecting them to the list created together during Assignment 1.

Step 1: Divide your students in smaller groups. We advise you to make groups of 3 students, because they are small enough that every member of the group has a possibility to share, but also uneven, which would make it more likely to have meaningful discussions. If you used approach 2 from above, you can also keep the same groups.

Step 2: Distribute the sources found in the preparation phase to the groups. Depending on how much time you want to spend on these assignments and on how difficult you want to make the task, we advise you to distribute:

  • beginners – 1 source each group (10 min.)
  • medium – 3 sources per group (15 min.)
  • expert – 6 sources per group (20 min.)

Note: Give each group the same source(s)! This makes it easier when you come to step 4, the Conclusion of the lesson.

If this is going alright it is very interesting to use different sources, for example sources chosen by the students themselves.  By doing so you also raise a different kind of discussion in the classroom.

Step 3: Write the following questions on the board / show the students the following questions:

Note: sometimes it can be helpful to read the questions out loud

  1. which of the expressions of nationalism listed before do you see in this (these) source(s)?
  2. try to put the source in its historical context: when was the photo taken? What was going on in that time?
  3. You can say that in football we have ‘political’ nationalism or ‘football’ nationalism. What do you think is the difference between these? Do you think this (these) source(s) is an example of ‘political’ or of ‘football’ nationalism? Please explain your choice.

Ask each group to answer the questions. Ask them to note down the answers that they agree on, but to also list each individual answer in case they do not agree. If you use an event the students should recognize from earlier classes you can disallow them using other sources then their textbook. Otherwise the internet might be a good help. After all, finding the right information is also a learning goal (but to keep it simple that’s not rated here)

Note: Give students enough time to proceed with their group discussions, and in the meanwhile walk among the groups and see if they need any help. If groups are done quickly, you can give them some more sources to work with.


Step 4: Conclusions (10 min.)

In the last ten minutes of lesson, ask each group to share their findings, and discuss with the classroom what they have learned during the day. Read the expected learning outcomes to the students and ask them if they feel they have met them.

Collect students’ answer sheets. Normally, Marcel uses an assessment grid (you can find a copy here) to assess whether the lesson has had the desired result.

More information

This practice was developed as part of the Football Makes History initiative. More information, including many other practices, source collections, and lesson plans, can be found on the project’s website at www.footballmakeshistory.eu.

To carry out the practice in his classroom, Marcel has developed a series of supporting materials, including two worksheet for students to fill in (here and here), a rubric for assessment (here), and an information sheet on what is nationalism (here) for students. Since different contexts and classrooms call for different sources, we have decided not to share the sources used by Marcel with his students. Here, however, you can find a list of potential expressions of nationalism (in football) that you can look for when creating your own sources collection.

Finally, in this post we are describing the core practice as carried out in the classroom. In case you would like to do more with your students, at this link you can find some suggestions for extension activities.

Let us know your thoughts!

Have you tried this practice with your classroom?  Or do you already do something similar? Marcel and all of us at EuroClio would be very glad if you took time to reach out to us and let us know your experience! You can reach out to us at secretariat@euroclio.eu or by getting in touch directly with Alice (project coordinator for Football Makes History) at alice@euroclio.eu.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Obstacles and Lessons Learned

Nationalism is a controversial topic, which is why teachers have to approach it in a sensitive manner. There can be obstacles, when different opinions arise and clash. Teachers must be equipped to deal with these situations.

The needed prior knowledge of the students depends on the variant the teacher chooses. It is possible to start without any prior knowledge of nationalism. If there is also not much knowledge about history in general, finding out what the sources are about might be difficult, but then students can write down what they think is going on.

The effect of the practice


By using a by a lot of people as normal excepted situation (fans in a football stadium) and a well-known ritual (singing the national anthem) to introduce and to discuss the concept of nationalism, students realize nationalism isn’t something from the past or only exists in far-far-away countries. It is something they too can encounter in their daily lives. This makes it is easier for them to engage. (Football can also be replaced by another international sports event or even by a cultural happening like the Eurovision Songfestival or the World Fair)

Assignment 1.

Nationalism is no longer an abstract concept. Pupils have suggested their own characteristics. Because of this, they not only know what nationalism is, but also how to recognize it. The concept is not just learned, but analyzed and used. They understand better.

Measuring the intended learning effect can be done by looking at the student worksheets, but of course also by listening to the group discussions about the source(s) and by questioning the students in the next lesson.

Assignment 2.

Because students will be looking for things they themselves came up with it will probably be easier to interpret the image. Using sources related to the subject matter is likely to work best. Captions can help students. And football knowledge is not necessarily necessary. In practice, I see that football fans often know the captured moment (especially if it is from a match), but others often provide other necessary information. An example from Marcel’s practice is a photograph of Maradonna’s hand goal in the game against England at the World Championship in 1986, captioned: The Hand of God. The football fans often can tell everything about the moment and the tournament. The Falklands War is not part of the curriculum in the Netherlands, so this is seldom mentioned, but even without knowledge of it, there are students who make the link between a protecting God and the nation, citing other examples of this (related to topics we have covered, like a phrase in the Dutch national anthem or ‘In God we trust’ on the American money).

Written by Ulrika Steven (EuroClio Trainee) and Marcel J.M. Put (Football Makes History Contributor), in Finland and the Netherlands, June and November 2021. Click here to access a short letter from the author!

Let’s talk Football History: The social significance of sport across Europe and beyond

On May 28th, Gijsbert Oonk, Kevin Moore & Petra Landers kicked off ‘FC EuroClio’, a webinar series through which we tackled football and social issues to explore how football history and society intertwine. The panel discussion revolved around personal experiences of football pioneers and considerations about football as cultural heritage.

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Football Makes History is a project which aims to promote social inclusion, diversity and non-discrimination. The rich local cultural heritage of football and its shared history covering the turbulent 20th-century history offers direct access to addressing past and present diversity. Gijsbert Oonk, academic advisor of the project, but also founding director of the Sport and Nation research program at Erasmus University Rotterdam, moderated the discussion which saw international footballer Petra Landers and sports historian Dr Kevin Moore as main protagonists. 

The only girl in the field

Coach, mentor, former football player, and contributor to the rise of women’s football. Petra Landers became a member of the first-ever German women’s national football team in 1982.[1]

Petra is an international footballer who also won the European championship, but looking at her, you see a down to earth, yet incredibly determined woman who still has the same passion for football as when she started off as a kid. Petra got an interest in the game in a time when football was a sport only for boys and girls were set to do other kinds of activities. However, she does not shy away from saying “I think football was already inside of me when I was born.” When at the age of 8 she was invited by her cousin to play on the streets, Petra started regularly playing with the boys from the neighbourhood. She was always ready to play, always wearing her football shirt underneath her clothes. Despite being the only girl in the group, she felt welcome and did not have any sort of unpleasant experience. It was only when she joined the women’s team that she started hearing rude comments. “It was very new for me, but it didn’t matter because I truly loved the game.” Women's football was forbidden in Germany (as well as in other countries) until 1970 and Petra clearly remembers that time:

On football pitches you could see only men: women were at home cooking” Petra Landers

Luckily, the fear of discrimination and societal constraints never prevented Petra from trying to enter the footballing world. It was a friend of hers who encouraged her to play for Bergisch Gladbach: when the coach saw her playing, he was amazed by her talent and decided to take her in the team. Nevertheless, it was not an easy game: her boss tried to stop her from representing Germany for the European championship in 1989, but she made clear that she was ready to quit her job to be free to go her own way. In the end, her determination made him change his mind and he eventually supported her decision!

In Support of Women’s Football - from Europe to Africa

After contributing to the rise of women’s football first in Germany and then in Europe, Petra decided to turn to Africa, where she is now training young girls. When she travelled there for the first time in 2014, Africa was obviously new to her, but seeing children playing football in the villages reminded her of her childhood and a strong empathetic feeling grew inside of her. “It was a feeling I got, I can’t describe it, it was amazing”. Watching those kids playing, she could see herself growing up and working hard to become a professional player. Petra is a source of inspiration for those kids: she does not only embody an example to follow, but she also gives them the hope to think that one day, they can become footballers or coaches too.

“You can’t imagine what areas I visited. We are now trying to get those children who can’t go to school. There are so many girls that are working at home, they have to do the household, they have to work, they don’t have the money to go to school. They don’t really have a childhood. We want to give them this chance.” Petra Landers

In 2017, Petra Landers was part of an important awareness programme in which a world record was challenged - the women’s team that played on the highest level on the Kilimanjaro. When asked whether she was willing to join, Petra immediately answered yes. She started to train nearly every day, again after many years. They had to climb and walk a lot, and not always in great conditions “The last night we went up to the mountain, it was -20 degrees, it was so cold. After one hour and a half, our drinks were already frozen, and it was dark and we were walking as fast as snails. The oxygen was getting thinner and thinner. It was hard to breathe, but if you have a goal, you try to give everything until you can.”

“We wanted to empower all the women and girls all over the world. We wanted to give a sign: if you set a goal, you can get everything, you can do everything. It’s true.” Petra Landers

Africa opened up Petra’s eyes to a completely different reality, and after changing the faith of women’s football, she wants to change the life of those African kids. Her next goal is to have her own football school in Ghana. “I want to move to Ghana, but not for talent, I’m not looking for talent. I want to give the children living outside the village a chance. They don’t have the chance to join projects because it’s too far away. They don’t have shoes to walk or run for so long. They are playing barefooted but they are playing with bright eyes. There are so many children who don’t have this chance and I want to give them one.”

Petra’s words opened the doors to a different kind of conversation we should have in current society, where the European situation is rather different: football is often a matter of cups and medals, and football museums end up being places of celebrations rather than an objective look at football history and source of reflection.

Football museums: celebrating heroes or reconnecting with the past?

Kevin Moore, world-respected football historian and founding director of the English National Football Museum, shared with us the reasons why he wanted a National Football Museum for England in the first place. Deeply convinced of the historical significance of football - “there are more nations in FIFA than in the United Nations!”, he observes - he explains:

“The reason why I applied for the job was because I did not want it to be Disneyland football. I wanted it to be an objective look at the history of the game, to treat the subject seriously and with objectivity, not a celebration of football – but an honest look at the game, every aspect, including the negatives such as sexism, racism and homophobia in the game.”  Kevin Moore

Kevin has gladly remarked that whilst setting up the museum, he could freely bring the true history of football into the museum. In club museums the importance of big cups and the heroes they have is indeed too often overvalued. There might be small display elements about WWII, stories about racism, homophobia or other issues, but those are often confined to a corner and those issues always play a minor role. Due to the limited space within the permanent galleries, these issues are more likely to be tackled in temporary exhibitions. For example, the English National Football Museum had in 2003 an exhibition on Arthur Wharton, the world’s first black professional footballer - telling the story of how he came from Ghana to England in 1882 to learn to be a methodist missionary but instead decided to be a footballer and athlete. In 2005, they had the world’s first exhibition on women’s football during the UEFA European Championships in England. As these exhibitions are temporary, they were able to tackle issues like gender or racism more in-depth, and on their website or through learning programmes.

How do we go from creating a hall of fame of heroes to creating a hall of history that engages meaningfully with the history and the local context?

Kevin speaks up about the dangers of club museums being too celebratory, as they see the museum just as a display through which showcasing their victories and their heroes, leaving out other (hi)stories. “Football is about stardom, which is why an inclusive hall of fame, to some extent, is a good idea. We all have our heroes.” However, visiting a museum is and should be an informal learning experience, a way through which people inadvertently learn. The English National Football Museum launched a special session for people with dementia back in 2017, around the 50th anniversary of England winning the World Cup in 1966: their memories were prompted by football and it was a great way for people to connect. In 2018, a similar project was carried out in The Netherlands by the professional football club Willhelm II Tilburg: “Football Memories” brought together people with similar backgrounds to show them old parts of football matches. In both cases, football memories seemed to create an environment where the elderly were able to not only recall memories, but also make new connections that they normally would not be able to make.

Local public museums have an important role, but as not every football club has or can afford to have a museum, it is important to inspire football clubs to engage more socially, for example by running some social reminiscence programs with their fans. Whilst most clubs interested in social responsibility do all kinds of programmes related to physical exercises, healthy diets, etc., they are rarely focussing on making educational programmes on history. To engage socially, clubs should relate more strongly to their fans - as Kevin observes, “the fans carry the history of the club, they are the ones who hold the tradition, the sense of belonging and the identity, and the club doesn’t. The club is whoever owns it now, and is a private entity.” It’s a money issue, but also a matter of ownership.

“Football Makes History has a great role in showing the value of history, learning, engagement with schools, connecting schools and older people and football clubs together and using the social power that football clubs have.” Kevin Moore

A European Football Museum?

Would the idea of setting up a European Football Museum be feasible? Although a world football museum already exists, various and controversial opinions were given on this topic. One of the issues is that the passion that each set of fans has is for either their own club or football in the nation - which is why national football museums are growing in numbers, so these kinds of museums would not work by continent. “Certainly you won’t have a museum that tells the story of European football, because that’s with the individual museums. What you could have is a very interesting museum about the European football competitions and also how football spread around Europe and what that common culture of football across Europe means.” In other words, having a museum that tells the stories of the champions league, the European cup, the development of football in Europe. As European football does not exist and has never existed in isolation, it’s rather a story of migration and connection, it would be interesting to trace the history of football in Europe on maps - and investigate further to what extent football and migration are connected.

“Football is too important just to be in football museums: football and sport should be in every single history museum, local and national. Yes, we should have football museums, too. But football is part of history and therefore football makes history, history makes football.” Kevin Moore

Do you think that Football Makes History? Sign our Petition!

Our football team has developed Policy and Action Recommendations aimed at ministries of education, sports, heritage - and the footballing world. You can now find the Manifesto on the Football Makes History website.

Do you think that football can open doors to conversations we need to have, but also inspire us to take action? Then support us in giving football history and football heritage the attention it deserves!

Written by Giulia Verdini


[1] Petra was in fact also part of the team from Bergisch Gladbach representing Germany in the 1981 unofficial World Cup in Taiwan

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Football Makes History in Numbers!

  • 6 partners from 4 countries
  • 30 developers, from 15 countries
  • 100+ life stories published on the website
  • 18 lesson plans published in English on Historiana
  • 12 lesson plans and source collections to be published soon!
  • a toolkit with 30 non-formal activities will be also published soon! >> Do not miss them!


Teaching history through the lens of football

International Day of Education: Celebrating with football history

The United Nations General Assembly has proclaimed January 24th as International Day of Education, in celebration of the role of education for peace and development and highlighting how inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong opportunities should be available for all.

EuroClio’s own Football Makes History project keeps inclusive education at the forefront, aiming to help young people explore European history and heritage through the lens of football to tackle social exclusion. We look at issues of racism, gender & sexism, homophobia, migration, poverty & inequality, nationalism, war & peace – all through the lens of the world’s most popular game!

Our project – financed through the Erasmus+ scheme of the European Union –  is now entering its final stages and we are publishing educational resources on a weekly basis. We’d like to seize the opportunity of the International Day of Education to showcase some of the ways our project can benefit you as an educator to teach an inclusive history.

The ready-made and transferable learning activities on European football history are designed to help tackle rising intolerance and engage students in critical thinking. Among others you’ll find lesson plans exploring nationalism and the links to armed conflicts, borders and national identities,  football and identity markers, and economic inequalities – with many more to come!

In addition to these full-fledged lessons plans, we have also added another feature useful to the educator: The Football Lives. These profiles are not your usual hall of fame. While some football lives are heroic and have paved the way for inclusion, democracy and human rights, others have done just the opposite. Take for instance the journey of Alex Villaplane who went from sporting hero, captaining France at the 1930 World Cup, to being executed by firing squad as a war criminal and collaborator with the Nazi occupier in 1994! A traitor to some can of course also be a hero to others. One such figure is Jörg Berger whose footballing career stalled after he refused to sign up as an informer for the East German secret police, Stasi, before later escaping to the West. While celebrating great footballers with interesting backgrounds (hello Zlatan, Maradona, Rapinoe and Özil!), our life stories also point to some of the darker sides of football and football history. Robert Enke committed suicide after years of suffering from depression. Was football partly at fault?

A common feature of all these Football Lives is that they tell a wider story that could feature as part of a history lesson. To help you as an educator, we have included a few “thinking points” to each story.

Have you already used (or plan to use!) some of our lesson plans or life stories in your teaching practice? If so, we’d love to hear from you! (please get in touch with Andreas Holtberget at andreas@euroclio.eu!)

We finally invite you to follow our Football Makes History accounts on social media to get the latest of both news and educational material. Stay tuned also for a number of professional development opportunities that will take place online or on site in the Netherlands, Germany, Romania and the UK this coming Spring. EuroClio’s own webinar series on football history will kick off 28th May!

Educating through football

How the World's most popular sport can help teaching history and fight discrimination


Football enjoys a fan base bigger than that of any other team sport, with millions of people passionately following local, national, and international competitions. Thanks to its accessibility (you only need a ball and two goalposts to play), football is played by professionals but also amateurs of every age, religion and social class; although it still appeals primarily to men, more and more women around the world are getting attracted to it, both as players and viewers. The “Football makes History” project, launched in 2018, wants to capitalise on this sport’s popularity and make football’s history and cultural heritage powerful educational tools for the promotion of equality and social inclusion. Funded by the EU Erasmus+ programme, “Football makes History” sees EuroClio co-operating with various partners from the football, heritage and education worlds, involving history educators and youth workers from across Europe. Different initiatives have already been implemented, such as staff training meetings, while the project’s website has recently been launched. Soon, learning activities for formal education and a toolkit for non-formal education will be made available in response to the needs of educators, assessed through an international survey run in early 2019. According to this survey, European educators, both in formal and non-formal education, have often witnessed cases of discrimination (particularly xenophobia), and they believe that football’s history has the potential to foster tolerance and respect. This is also the opinion of Professor Gijsbert Oonk from the History Department of Erasmus University Rotterdam. Professor Oonk, director of the “Sport and Nation” research programme and holder of the Jean Monnet Chair on Migration, Citizenship and Identity, is the Academic Advisor of “Football makes History”. He will show us how football history can help promoting positive values among the younger generations, and will provide us with tips and examples for formal and non-formal educators.

How to include football history in the curriculum

Football history can offer an alternative approach to the teaching of colonialism. Generally, educators support their instruction with world maps showing countries in different colours according to which European state colonised them. Football may offer a less conventional route into the subject that would allow students to be more actively engaged. For example, students could be asked to look at pictures of national football teams and guess where the players and their parents were born. This approach would be very effective in a country like France, whose national team won the 2018 World Cup and was composed by fourteen players of African origin out of twenty-two, connecting the history of colonialism with the history of migrations. Besides the famous French case, there are plenty of examples of teams whose members were born in different countries from the one they play for, as Professor Oonk explains in his inaugural lecture. Including football history in lesson plans about colonialism would allow educators to discuss relevant issues such as integration and citizenship, thus ensuring that the teaching of a complex past phenomenon does not overlook its current implications and long term consequences.

If in the case of colonialism, football history can provide a starting point for the teaching of the past, in other cases it can enrich existing narratives like, for example, the history of the First World War. A series of episodes known as “Christmas truce” occurred in December 1914 along the Western Front. Hostilities had reached a stalemate and during the Christmas week soldiers from opposite sides came out of the trenches and met in no man’s land, fraternised, exchanged gifts and, in some cases, played football. There are various accounts of matches between British and German troops that, although not always accurate and reliable, have persuaded historians that during these unofficial ceasefires enemy soldiers did meet and play football on a few battlefields in the Flanders. Learning about these episodes can help students familiarise themselves with the geography of the conflict and with the reality of life in the trenches. Moreover, the Christmas truce constitutes an example of humanity in the midst of atrocity, and can contribute to promoting peace and mutual understanding.

Although football history includes various episodes of tolerance and solidarity, sometimes such values did not prevail and this sport became characterised by different forms of discrimination, like racism, xenophobia, antisemitism and sexism. Today, it happens both on the terraces during matches when, for example, fans make monkey gestures, and on social media, where the phenomenon is amplified. Fare Network, one of the partners to the Football Makes History project is working hard to report on and combat such occurrences.

1934 World Champions: Italy

Unfortunately, intolerance has long been present in football, but Professor Oonk argues that it should not be downplayed or ignored. Even the most negative episodes from football history have the potential to spark discussion about various topics, such as nationality and identity, while at the same time expanding and deepening student’s comprehension of complex historical phenomena. For example, history educators could integrate the teaching of Italian fascism with the history of Italian football in the 1930s. The country’s national team winner of the World Cup in 1934 included some players who were born in South America from Italian immigrants; nevertheless, nobody questioned their Italian nationality and right to play for Italy. As anti-Semitism grew and racial laws were implemented in 1938, members of the Italian Jewish community who had become prominent in football, such as Renato Sacerdoti, President of AS Roma and architect of the team’ success in the 1930s, were persecuted and arrested, despite remaining very popular among Roma fans. The case of football during Italian fascism is just one example of how educators can use the history of this sport to explore concepts of nationality, identity and loyalty, and to reflect on the discrimination and exclusion of minority groups.


Football history has a lot of untapped potential to promote inclusivity and tolerance by providing positive examples and role models, and by serving as a basis for discussing current topics. Moreover, including football history in the normal history curriculum can help raise students’ interest in the subject, as Professor Oonk’s experience confirms. This is why EuroClio is currently preparing teaching materials for formal and non-formal education, with useful resources soon to be made available on the project’s website. However, as all educational tools, football history has some limitations. First, its use is limited to the teaching of recent history. Although some forms of football already existed, it is during the twentieth century that this sport became as popular as it is today and that its history started to be documented systematically. Moreover, much like films and video games may also fail to capture some pupils’ attention, football history too does not always improve engagement and participation in the classroom because not all students are interested in the sport in first place. Therefore, students preferences should be taken into account by educators before including football history in the curriculum. Done right, however, football history can be a very useful tool to highlight issues of historical importance that are fit for history curricula.


Written by Cecilia Biaggi, postdoctoral trainee at EuroClio and a Marie Sklodowska Curie Researcher in the LEaDing Fellows COFUND program at Erasmus University Rotterdam. Cecilia is particularly interested in minorities and nation-building, political history and education. A special thanks also to Professor Gijsbert Oonk for input to this article.

Football Makes History – Needs Assessment

This needs assessment is produced as part of the Football Makes History project.  The overall aim of the Football Makes History project is to contribute to the reduction of the number of people at risk of social exclusion across Europe. The project aims to builds on the rich local cultural heritage of football and its shared history that offers direct access to addressing past and present diversity. In addition, it aims to promote shared values, equality, non-discrimination and social inclusion with an integrated perspective, encompassing and innovating formal and non-formal learning, as well as youth work.

This Needs Assessment visualises the needs and challenges of football history as an educational tool for social inclusion based on an EU-wide survey and on three piloting projects. It identifies working elements that can be used when producing a toolkit and exemplary lessons within the course of this project. In addition, it examines educational programmes that make use of football history, assessing their working elements and identifying improvements needed, as well as potential areas for innovation.

Read the full needs assessment here.

Football Makes History*: Understanding migration and the multicultural society through football

Julia Flegel Project Updates

The 3rd Short-term Joint Staff Training was held from the 01.11-03.11.2019 in Frankfurt, Germany hosted by the Eintracht Frankfurt Museum.

Under the overall goal of enhancing social cohesion and promoting diversity in the educators’ everyday work, 30 participants, school history educators and youth workers, were offered training, expertise and professional development, especially on the topics discrimination and migration in football together with 10 participants of the partner organisations EuroClio, FARE NETWORK and EINTRACHT FRANKFURT MUSEUM.

At first, participants learned about the German Football context via presentations by staff members of the Eintracht Frankfurt Museum, the DFB-Kulturstiftung (DFB-Cultural Foundation) and the head of “Koordinationsstelle für Fanprojekte” (Coordination office for fan projects). The second part of the meeting was dedicated to the development of the Learning Activities, the Toolkit and the Policy Recommendations, as well as story-telling in football – all key deliverables of the Football Makes History Project.

In two time slots, two parallel workshops on the Learning activities formed the core of the three-day training, in which four sample Learning Activities, formal and non-formal, were introduced to the participants, as well as tested out and evaluated by them.

Another highlight of the weekend was the opportunity to attend Eintracht Frankfurt’s 5-1 Bundesliga victory over Bayern Munich at a sold out stadium in Frankfurt. A big thanks to our colleagues at the Eintracht Frankfurt Museum for arranging tickets for everyone!

Veendammer Wind: at the crossroads of history, football, and music

Agustin De Julio Reviews

Veendammer Wind: A football opera, 28-30 June & 4-5 July 2019

The rise and fall of a club and the importance of community

Just outside the city centre of Veendam stands the Langeleegte stadium imposingly, six years after the official bankruptcy and closure of the SC Veendam. The 29th of June 2019, the Langeleegte opened its doors once again for a festive occasion, Veendammer Wind, an opera celebrating the rich history of the club, the tireless engagement of the local community, and their great achievements. Inextricably, it also tells the story of the decline of the Sportclub Veendam, pride of the east of Groningen.

It is impossible though, to reflect on the decline of the club, without considering the social reality of the Veenkoloniën, the area of the east of Groningen of which Veendam serves as unofficial capital. This region is also one of the poorest in the Netherlands. Historically, the Veenkoloniën were hit by adverse economic shocks they could never fully recover from. The decline of the peat industry, and the mechanisation of agriculture left great amounts of manual workers unemployed. Aided by globalisation, industrial production departed to areas with cheaper labour during the last century. The structural damage done to homes and historical buildings in the Veenkoloniën due to gas extraction is the latest in a long list of adverse circumstances for the area. Culturally, this region has seen a marked disconnection with the rich west of the country, and has had revolutionary tendencies well into the 20th century. It is in this context - that of the beleaguered community standing up for what is theirs - that the story of a family trying to save their local club unfolds. The attempts to revive the club through national campaigning and the recruitment of cultural ambassadors is lovingly told, with an emphasis on local stories, and interesting insights on the role of women in traditionally male dominated sports, culminating in an organised women’s team becoming more prominent than the men’s.

Despite some minor pitfalls, this opera reveals the spirit of the east of Groningen. One leaves the Langeleegte with a handful of lessons learnt. Firstly, the opera communicates well that in difficult times, community and solidarity matter. Hard times in this case show the potential for local, community solutions that can bring an entire region together. Secondly, it showcases that despite the many noxious examples of identity being used for divisive and exclusive narratives, it can also be a virtuous thing: young and old, Groningers and not, came together to celebrate a club that bound them to each other. The prominence of the Gronings dialect, both sung and spoken, is a clear indication of the intimate relationship between culture and sport. Stunning performances from the main cast, supporting actors and the Veenkoloniaal Symfonieorkest were worthy of this touching local story.

What does this performance mean for history, citizenship and heritage education?

The Football Makes History[1] project led by EuroClio and its partner organisations aims to tackle social exclusion and discrimination of any type via the use of football history. The rationale behind the project lies on the conviction that football, through its wide appeal, can bring people together and exact great positive societal change. Veendammer Wind shows the richness, breadth and potential of football as a source of inspiration to address these societal problems. Everywhere one looks, there are local histories that could teach valuable lessons, both in the classroom and on the pitch. It also showcases the virtues of multidisciplinarity, and encourages educators not to be afraid to innovate by mixing history with other topics, much like this performance mixes opera with football and history. The past is interwoven with everything around us, and performances like these further make the case for the use of engaging and moving local histories to teach citizenship values and raise awareness of shared heritage amongst Europe’s youth.

Original title Veendammer Wind
Original language Dutch and Gronings
Genre Opera

[1] Project implemented with the financial support of the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union as part of the initiative “Football History for Inclusion – Innovative collaborations of school education and youth through the prism of local football history for social inclusion and diversity”

Written by Agustín De Julio, EuroClio trainee

Football Makes History* : Addressing the Inclusion of National Minorities

Agustin De Julio Project Updates

From the 2nd to the 5th of May, the 2rd Short-Term Staff Training for the Football Makes History project took place in Bucharest, Romania. The Training was organised by the Romanian Football Federation, one of the partners in the Project.

28 enthusiastic developers from all over Europe met in the capital city of Romania for this meeting, which focused on the inclusion of national minorities, both in football and in public life in general. Presentations on this topic, which is of high relevance within the Romanian context, were given by the Florin Sari, CSR Manager of the Romanian Football Federation, and by Ms. Lacziko Eniko Katalin, State Secretary for Interethnic Minorities.

During the meeting, developers presented the topics that they would like to touch upon in the educational material they are creating to each other (such as how to use football and football teams to teach the concept of border, on to promote the integration of refugees). Then, guided by EuroClio and the consortium partners, they dived into their materials, further structuring the activities and defining future steps to be taken.

Materials will continue to be developed during the summer, also by means of piloting throughout Europe. The Consortium and Developers will meet again at the beginning of November 2019 in Frankfurt, Germany, hosted by the Eintracht Frankfurt Museum.

In the coming weeks, we will publish a complete report on the Bucharest Short Term Staff Training: Stay Tuned to know more about the event and its results!

Read here the public report for the Bucharest Short-Term Staff Training.

* Project implemented with the financial support of the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union as part of the initiative “Football History for Inclusion – Innovative collaborations of school education and youth through the prism of local football history for social inclusion and diversity”.

Football Makes History*: Third Transnational Project Meeting in Bucharest

Agustin De Julio Project Updates

The 3rd Transnational Project Meeting for the Football Makes History project took place in Bucharest, Romania on the 6th of May 2019.

The partner organisations: Anne Frank House, EuroClio, Eintracht Frankfurt Museum, Evenzo Consultancy, Fare Network and the Romanian Football Federation, met in order to discuss the development of the project and further develop the strategy to successfully bring the project to fruition.

An evaluation of the Short-Term Staff training that took place from the 2nd -5th of May in Bucharest was performed, and specific intellectual outcomes of the project were discussed. Among them, the results of the survey for the Needs Assessment were analysed, the design of the Policy Recommendations was presented and the tentative design of the Public Awareness Campaigns were addressed.

This meeting will be followed up during the next Transnational Project Meeting, which will take place in Frankfurt am Main, during the 8th and 9th of October, in preparation for the subsequent Short-Term Staff Training, taking place in early November 2019 in Frankfurt.

* Project implemented with the financial support of the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union as part of the initiative “Football History for Inclusion – Innovative collaborations of school education and youth through the prism of local football history for social inclusion and diversity.

Help us Understand and Uncover the Educational Potential of Football History!

Jaco Stoop Project Updates

EuroClio, Fare Network, and their partners in the “Football Makes History” project are looking for your help. The Football Makes History project team will develop educational material for formal and non-formal education, using football as a door-opener to teach issues around social inclusion and anti-discrimination.

We would like to learn more about if and how you face and deal with topics such as inclusion, exclusion, diversity, and discrimination in your work. Do you think materials dealing with football history could offer a way to teach about it? Do you know of existing materials that the project team should be aware of?

Please fill in this anonymous survey. The survey is aimed at educators working in both a formal and non-formal setting; be they classroom teachers, or youth workers at a local football club. It does not matter if you are interested in football and sports or not at all. What matters, is that you are interested in providing quality education to your pupils.

The data collected will be part of a public report that will be compiled and edited by the Anne Frank House. The report will be made available on our project page and elsewhere, and will guide the project team in developing high-quality educational materials that respond to the needs of educators.

Thank you in advance for filling in the survey before Friday 15 March 2019! Please feel free to share it with your colleagues and peers.