The World Cup: A Grand Teachable Moment |

The World Cup: A Grand Teachable Moment

First a disclosure. We are a huge soccer family. We have all played, coached, refereed, and even run a local Muslim youth soccer league. So, it will surprise no one that this homeschooling family used the biggest soccer tournament on the world stage for a teachable moment. When my kids were younger, we looked forward to watching amazing soccer and used our natural interests to capitalize on a wide variety of learning opportunities. Regardless of whether you are a fan of the beautiful game, there is much to learn about creating multidisciplinary lessons from contemporary events. 

Before getting to the lessons, some background details are important. The 2022 FIFA World Cup was hosted by Qatar. The small Middle Eastern country pitched and won a bid to host the games in 2010. It was a first for a Muslim country and the Middle East. The timings of the tournament had to be moved to the end of November to avoid the extreme heat of the desert in the summer. What happened next was an extraordinary undertaking. Six stadiums were built, thousands of foreign national workers converged and labored, infrastructure (roads, neighborhoods, hotels, and service industry) was planned and constructed, and more. The result was the largest amount ever spent on a World Cup undertaking - a whopping $212 billion. 

The games have not been without controversy, however. Officials from the governing body FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association or International Association Football Federation) have since been accused of corruption and bribery surrounding the decision and removed from office. There were also conflicts about how to handle matters that are contrary to our Islamic values like the sale of alcohol, homosexuality, and cohabitation by couples who are not married. Nonetheless, watching fans and players converge in Qatar from around the world has been both highly symbolic and extremely entertaining. 

Teachable Moments Abound 

Back to the teachable moments. There are many ways to approach developing lessons around the games. Here are a few engaging suggestions that will intrigue soccer or fútbol fans of all ages.

From a sports perspective, learn more about:

  • Rules of the game
  • What it takes to become a referee
  • Names and ages of the youngest and oldest players
  • How the individual players and teams benefit from the tournament
  • Fair play and how to be a good sport

From a math perspective, calculate the:

  • Distance it takes to get to the games from your home
  • Average daily temperature
  • Statistics for your favorite players (and how they are determined) 
  • Angles and velocity related to shots on goal
  • Attendance capacity of each of the stadiums

From a geography perspective, learn more about the:

  • Countries that are represented from each continent
  • Six regional FIFA confederations that organize clubs from all over the world and host tournaments to determine who moves on to the World Cup
  • Flags for each country and the meanings behind their colors and emblems
  • Landforms and bodies of water in the region
  • Animals and plants common to the region

From a cultural perspective, check out the:

  • Local landmarks 
  • Favorite local foods (try out a new recipe!)
  • Language of the region (learn some conversational vocabulary!)
  • History of Indigenous peoples
  • Form of government and heads of state

From a science perspective, learn more about:

  • How drinking water is provided in the desert
  • What types of food are grown in the region
  • How climate change impacts the area
  • Use of sustainable energy at the games and in the country
  • Types of public transportation available

From an economics perspective, consider how much it cost to:

  • Travel to the games by plane, train, or ship
  • Book a hotel for a week
  • Purchase tickets for a game (and where you could buy them)
  • Purchase refreshments at the stadiums
  • Manufacture balls that were used in the tournament

From an arts perspective, find out about:

  • Popular local artists and musicians
  • Famous buildings and local architecture
  • Stadium design (including innovations like the stadium which was made of 974 shipping containers and is completely mobile)
  • Sculptures built to teach (like the Miraculous Journey – 14 bronze statues depicting the stages of life)
  • Creative art projects connected to the games (like designing your own jersey)

From a political perspective, learn more about:

  • Why it was important for Qatar to host these games
  • Which dignitaries from all over the world attended the games
  • Boycotts that were staged in country and around the world
  • Implications of world attention on a Muslim country
  • Causes that were championed by teams and individual players

From an Islamic perspective, check out:

  • Accommodations for prayer for Muslims and non-Muslims
  • How the country handled alcohol sales
  • Prohibitions against homosexuality and cohabitation by non-married individuals
  • How Muslims welcome guests into their homes and country
  • If there was any controversy about hosting the games 

These suggestions work for soccer events and specifically the World Cup but the suggestions can also help you develop your own multidisciplinary approach to other contemporary national and global sporting events. You can also extrapolate to global events like the COP27 Climate Conference, Nobel Peace Prize awards, literary awards like the naming of a Poet Laureate, and more. When you look at these types of events as opportunities for learning, then the entire world becomes your classroom. And what a beautiful world Allah has provided for us, alhamdulillah.

Zahirah Lynn Eppard is the managing editor of the Muslim Home parenting newsletter project. As Sound Vision’s Director of Religious Education, she has also spearheaded the production of more than 500 online classes serving children ages 3-12 in the Adam’s World and Colors of Islam Clubs and directed the development of new episodes of the popular Adam’s World video series. Eppard has also worked in the field of education as a teacher, homeschooler, and Islamic school principal, as a marital and crisis intervention counselor, and as a lobbyist, and social justice activist. She lives with her husband and six children in Maryland

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