The Euro Month
Football and politics come together
by Brian Radcliffe
Suitable for Key Stage 4/5
To explore students’ understanding of our place in Europe (SEAL theme: Social Skills).
Preparation and materials
You will need a leader and two readers.
Leader: June 2016 is European month. This month, we are going to hear the words ‘Euro’ and ‘EU’ many, many times each day. This is partly because an important vote is going to happen on Thursday 23 June: there will be a national referendum about whether the UK should remain in the European Union. On the other hand, and possibly more interesting for many of you, the UEFA Euro 2016 Football Championship begins in France on 10 June. The final will be on 10 July.
Reader 1: Twenty-four ‘footballing’ nations have fought their way through the qualifying rounds to win the opportunity to compete for the prestigious UEFA European Championship trophy. The UK is represented by three separate teams: England, Northern Ireland and Wales.
Reader 2: Politically, at present, the European Union consists of 28 countries that are committed to various policies that encourage trade between one another and also allow easy access across borders for nationals of these countries. Some of these nations would like a much closer union, whereas others, like the UK, would prefer a more flexible relationship that allows a measure of independence.
Leader: Here is a question for you. Can you name the six footballing nations who have qualified for the finals of UEFA Euro 2016, but are not members of the European Union?
Listen to a range of answers.
The answers are: Albania, Iceland, Russia, Switzerland, Turkey and the Ukraine.
We are now going to listen to some brief opinions about these countries.
Reader 1: Turkey would like to be a member of the EU.
Reader 2: They're not expected to do well in Euro 2016, though. It looks like they have some talented players, but not enough.
Reader 1: Albania is a small country that looks to be a long way from EU membership.
Reader 2: Actually, Albania is the real surprise package in the football finals. Having defeated some good teams to qualify, no one will be looking forward to facing them!
Reader 1: Russia seems to want nothing to do with the EU.
Reader 2: But in footballing terms, they are big players. They shouldn’t be underestimated.
Reader 1: The Ukraine seems to be undecided about the European Union.
Reader 2: As a footballing nation, the Ukraine is a bit like Turkey. They have some star players, but probably not enough to make a huge impact.
Reader 1: Iceland holds on to its independence. Although it applied to join the European Union in 2009, it later withdrew its application.
Reader 2: They seem to be underdogs, but they’re happy to keep playing.
Reader 1: Finally, there is Switzerland. The bankers of Europe, if not the world. They seem to be strongly independent.
Reader 2: And they are a real threat on the pitch. They did very well in the World Cup. Many people think that they could go far in the Euro 2016 competition.
Time for reflection
Leader: So, we have two important events in June 2016. There are several areas that relate to both events.
First, there is national pride. Each of the three UK teams that have qualified for Euro 2016 needed to show that they were good enough and that they could perform in football at the highest level. Euro 2016 would be less of a competition without these teams. In a similar way, we need to consider what we, as a nation, can bring to Europe, as well as considering what we can gain from being in the European Union.
Second, we need to consider how we relate to those around us. Whether we win or lose in Euro 2016, how will we react to those countries against whom we are competing? Do we flaunt our strength or praise other people’s achievements? Likewise, how does our attitude to the EU referendum reflect who we are as people and what kind of nation we are?
Third, how do we react when things don't go our own way? In Euro 2016, England, Wales and Northern Ireland cannot all win! Likewise, how will we react if our own personal preferences are not achieved in the vote as to whether we stay in the European Union?
Fourth, when we see our footballing shortcomings and limitations, do we ‘take our ball home’, as the saying goes, or do we seek the help of others as we try to improve? To put it another way, is the national team better or worse as a result of all the foreign players competing in the Premier League? Is this a consideration for our presence in the EU?
Euro 2016 is going to be a fabulous tournament. There will be moments of high drama, loud singing of national anthems and colourful shirts emblazoned with each country's badges. We will see people cheering on their teams, shouting at the referees and maybe even some antagonism between sets of fans. However, in the end, what will matter most are the enjoyment and the shared experiences, the ups and downs of competition.
There is no football match on 23 June. It is the day after the initial group matches have been completed and also when the UK goes to vote about the EU.
I wonder what both results will show.
- Will we have demonstrated that we have something to contribute to Europe in terms of football?
- Will we have seen ourselves as winners or losers?
- Will we decide to stand alone or will we cement a place in the EU?
It is a fascinating set of parallels.
Thank you for competition, for what it shows about ourselves and our relationship to others.
Please help us to react well, whether we win or lose.
‘We are the champions’ by Queen