The Zwijsen College in Veghel, the Netherlands held a very special event in May 2022 called the Week of Europe. High school students (around 16 years old) experienced a whole week about the connections between racism, discrimination and football. Groups of students were assigned countries, and participated in workshops and went on excursions during the course of the week. Here follows an account written by the students of their day-to-day activities as they experienced a week full of events centred around football, history and social inclusion!
After an introduction to Europe Week, every class started with one of four workshops, developed by Football Makes History and the Anne Frank House.
The first workshop was about the football team of their assigned country, with historically laden questions as to why there are people with different cultural backgrounds.
The next workshop was called Stories that move. In this workshop, we played an investigation game, where you have to find out who a postal package belongs to. It is important to be careful about how you approach each resident. It helped us explore how there are many differences among people, but that you have a key in how you talk with them.
The third workshop was made by Football Makes History entitled Chants in Football, and dealt with racism and discrimination, mainly around the football field. The students watched a short clip with scenarios and needed to make choices about who did what, who said what, and who should be captain in different situations. All the options had something to do with discrimination and the students got different results based on if they were the one who discriminated, who helped, or who was the victim of discrimination.
The last workshop of the day was about fans of football teams and respect. They talked about what it is like being a fan and stories of football players who encountered troubling fans and/or discrimination.
The first thing the students had to do was to search for information on their assigned country. Then they made a start on their Dream Team. The students had to find 5 ex-players with a different background or sexuality. They gave a short presentation about the information of the country and their Dream Team. Later, there was a preview regarding the Netherlands-Germany match that would be played that evening. There Jonathan Even-Zohar told us about the history of the current rivalry but also about how we can see changes in diversity through the developments of the team.
Lastly, the countries had to prepare for three debates, and the members were divided in four classrooms. There were three debates in which the students had to talk according to their country. In each classroom the country with the best arguments and participation won the debate.
Wednesday, the students visited football club FC Den Bosch. Firstly, all the students watched the practice of the football team. They had some questions they could ask the players about who they were and what their backgrounds were. After lunch, all groups got together at their groups table. At each table there was a player or someone who is close/important to FC Den Bosch for short speeddates. During the speeddates they talked about racism, discrimination, the intimidation that surrounds football and the experiences of both the players and the students.
There was also press from local and national media present. The event gathered significant attention given the innovative initiative of FC Den Bosch, that decided to proactively tackle sensitive issues like racism and discrimination head-on with students, in contrast to the complacent attitude other clubs show.
Students visited the legendary Olympic Stadium in Amsterdam. We were welcomed there by people from All Season Sports, a group that organises multiple fun sport activities. The group was divided in half and one part started with a guided tour in and around the stadium. Students learnt about the history of the stadium. During a small break students could go into the city and explore a little. Events were organised at the stadium where students could choose track running, football or slingshot shooting.
The order of this day was a little bit different for each class. Firstly, there was a wheelchair basketball clinic. Students learned how to make speed in a wheelchair and how to turn. They also learned how to control a ball while sitting in a wheelchair. Later they raced each other to see who was the fastest and then they practised how to move with a ball. After that, they played different kinds of matches against each other. When they were done, the students watched a documentary about the discrimination in soccer made by the Uefa. In this video, several players told different stories about their encounters with discrimination surrounding soccer. They mainly talked about racism, but they also talked about discrimination based on gender. They also talked about the issues players face who are refugees or have a different religion, but they also brought up the fact that people’s religion can have a positive effect.
Find out more
This account of the Week of Europe, organised for the students of the Veghel College shows the importance of reflecting on the society around us and how sports can be a positive or negative influence on it. It also highlights the importance of community, and the value of local partners and their histories.
Check out the local media which reported on the students work on Klik Nieuws, DTV Nieuws or on Brabants Dagblad. The school Zwijsen College itself also posted a short report. You can listen more to the work of history teacher Hellen Jansen on the EuroClio podcast Past Times, on this special episode on football and history education.