N usually says he’s not a football fan. He’ll play in PE, but not at playtimes. He’ll play in the garden with his football obsessed cousin once they’ve got bored of tennis. But he did enjoy the live MK Dons match we went to watch even though he gets bored 5 minutes in when football is on the tv.

I’m with him usually. As a child I was a football fan. I had a favourite local team (the Oxford United goalie lived down our road) and supported Manchester Utd because I’d met Bryan Robson walking down the street. We used to watch a lot of football matches on tv because of my brother. Over the years, other sports have taken over; generally my sports viewing is limited to tennis, and big sporting events like the Olympics or European/World Championships. Then I’ll watch most sports, including football because those big events are exciting. The anticipation, supporting your country, and getting caught up in the conversations. You just get that buzz and enthusiasm.

This world cup was immense in terms of spirit in our little part of England. As everywhere else it seemed. Our quiet unassuming team of footballers and manager compared with the showy celeb footballers back in my teen years. Ours was a young team. A team who were playing well and looked great for the future. People thought they might start with this world cup and show what they could do in future. There was a quiet hope rather than expectation, that built in momentum.

But this world cup didn’t see the brash showiness of support from the British public that we’ve seen in the past. Over the past month I’ve only seen 4 cars with flags flying. And very few houses with flags hanging from windows. Compared with past tournaments, it’s been understated just like Gareth Southgate and the team who’ve gone about the job in the way they planned, proving their place in the world rankings.

Even N got caught up in the spirit helped by his school supporting the team for every match day by wearing red white and blue instead of uniform (or affiliated country’s kit for children who preferred elsewhere).

For the semi-final match against Croatia, he even managed to stay up until halfway through the second half. Beating his usual 5 minutes threshold.

In the days since we lost that semi-final, there’s be a lot of gratitude to the players, to the team, to the manager. They deliverted credible performances, proved their ability, and made us think that England’s football team have a right to be ambitious about the Euros in 2 years time.

The way they’ve played and conducted themselves, such a young team, has been great. There’s a lot to take from our team, our world cup team can teach our kids.

inspired by the england world cup team - Bubbablue and me

Fair play

While some other teams played dirty, ours mostly kept their heads. Admitting when their falls weren’t free kicks or penalties, and just generally being nice all round. Yes there was a bit of fire at certain times, but generally they were good role models on the pitch.

Sport and competitiveness is important for children to take part in and learn. But fair play is key, and N often goes on about good sportsmanship from what he’s learnt at school.

Humility

I’m sure most of them earn a fortune from their football, but maybe beacuse of their relative youth, they still felt like they knew they were still learning. They were there for the experience first, and then to try and win harder as they moved through the tournament.

There didn’t seem to be much ego going on. And we didn’t hear of raucous ‘typical’ footballer wild off pitch behaviour that so often mars a team’s performance.

As for Gareth Southgate’s interviews…I think he’s been a great speaker for the team and the work they’ve done. He seems to have created a team with drive and focus

Children can learn that quiet and humble people can still win and do well in their own way.

Teamwork and knowing their roles

Each person knew their place in the team. It helped they maintained the same team throughout. They had their role to play and played them well. And supported each other in celebration and during the hard times. We won’t forget the photo of Gareth Southgate comforting the Colombian player after they’d lost to us on penalties, Gareth having been in the same situation during his own playing career.

However much a loner a child is, they’ll still need friends and support networks around them. But they can also learn how they need to be part of teams as well.

Pride

You really got the feeling they all believed in the team and really wanted to play for England. In knowing the whole country was behind them, they coped with the potential pressure admirably. The work with their team psychologists and the management of Southgate obviously did well in supporting them to cope with pressure.

Having pride in your work, and a want to improve (and win), is something I believe most children should have. Enjoying their work is also something that the England team put across.

Embed from Getty Images

Try something different

Everytime I head the ‘Lovetrain’ was in play, it made me laugh. But it was a different type of set piece to everyone else’s that I saw play. And sometimes it worked. In earlier rounds it certainly helped confuse the opponents.

We all get stuck in a rut, but sometimes we need to break free and try something else. For children they’re always trying something new. But learning this will follow them through life.

To enjoy sport

Watching the England team, most of their matches they really looked like they were enjoying every moment. And we all want our children to enjoy the sport they play.

Hopefully when N plays competitive sports he’ll go out to win, but also have learnt from the sportsmen and women he’s watched play.

Been inspired by them.

Enjoyed watching their passion for their game.

Been magnanimous in defeat and humble when winning.

And be ready to try again a second and third time.

Did you watch any of the World Cup? Were you or your children inspired or pleased to see the England team play the way they did?

 

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2 Comments

  1. Amen to all of that! It’s great to see footballers being role models for kids and lovely that the whole country got behind them. We were all gripped by the World Cup and will be sad to see it over after the final today.

    • For someone who’s not really a fan of football, N is already planning Euros watching and has been working out what the next big sports events are. I love to see him so excited.

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