Nationalism, War, and Football: teaching foreign policies through football

Oct 25, 2020

EDU Resources

Connecting football with foreign policy

Are you teaching students about countries’ foreign policies? Why not address this issue by looking at the Anglo-Argentine conflict to demonstrate how war influenced people in their experience of football? Use this new Football Makes History lesson plan “Malvinas/Falkland: Nationalism, war and football (1982-1990)”. It is now available on Historiana with ready-to-use teacher and student material. Through this activity, students will understand the influence of foreign policies on football rivalries, evaluate negative and positive aspects of nationalism, and interpret how society relates geopolitical and sporting events. All this is achieved with a highly dynamic activity that includes a mini football match with a unique format.

In this article:


Diego Maradona celebrating his goal against England in 1986 (Photo: Dani Yako / Source: Clarín)

Diego Maradona celebrating his goal against England in 1986 (Photo: Dani Yako “Monumento al gol” / Source: Clarín).

Geopolitical wars or football competitions?

How can defeat in war lead to the quest for revenge in a football tournament? Fernando Gallego Pedraza uses the example of the Malvinas/Falklands war to help students find the answer to this question. By exploring how foreign policies lead to war, students discover how nationalism is portrayed through football and the effect it has on the experience of the game. At the same time, they learn about geopolitics by analyzing the importance to the UK of such a remote enclave as Falkland. This is done in a dynamic way by re-enacting the war through a short football match.

Historian Fernando Gallego and developer of this lesson plan:

This learning activity analyses in an entertaining way the development of the events and reflects on nationalism and sport. Considered one of the most tense events of the second half of the 20th century, the Falklands War ended up having its impact on the football ground in the context of the World Cup.  The nationalist spirit of both countries made the match a matter of honour.

Learning history through a football match

Students dive into the topic by engaging in a fun activity, where they re-enact the war through a short football match between Argentina and England. Teams are of different sizes, which allows the students to feel the military superiority. Finally, the game will end through scoring the symbolic “Hand of God” goal. 

Through collaboration with peers in a fun and energetic way, students will learn to understand the dynamics in the relationships between the topics covered. Aimed at students aged 12-17, this learning activity provides educators with a unique opportunity to present a serious topic in an engaging way, adding an active element to the teaching. Students will take part in a debate to reflect on what happened and what they learnt.

Practicing inclusion and understanding

Use this activity if you have students that:

  • are studying foreign policies in the 20th century;
  • would benefit from a collaborative learning environment;
  • want to learn about nationalism through an unconventional perspective.

Get the resource

Access and use the educational resource “Malvinas/Falkland: Nationalism, war and football (1982-1990)” on Historiana. Find out more about Fernando Gallego in an interview we did in spring of 2020.

Article Tags:   20th century  |   nationalism  |   teaching  |   world history

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