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Working Professionally with Children and Youth in Care
CYC-Online Issue 42 JULY 2002 / BACK
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postcard from leon fulcher

From the World Cup

So how often did the children and young people in your place tune in to watch soccer during the 2002 FIFA World Cup? What time did you get up or stay up to watch broadcasts from Japan or Korea? While North America’s youth cheered with the victorious Detroit Red Wings in Stanley Cup hockey and or the NBA Championship LA Lakers in basketball, the rest of the world's children tuned in to soccer – glorious soccer – that game played by children everywhere else in the world!

Soccer is played by more of the world's children than any other game

Alas, I was not one to have been privileged enough to have been in Japan and Korea for the 2002 World Cup. I confess to having watched almost all the matches, however, so I was interested to see how children walked hand in hand onto the pitch with each of the players from all of the 32 countries represented in the World Cup Finals. Some may be unaware of the elaborate round of regional qualifying matches that are played over the two years leading up to the World Cup. Many good teams such as Holland, Norway, Scotland and Australia – to name but a few – failed to even make it into the last 32 who went to Japan and Korea.

All around the world, those who have followed this year’s World Cup will know that the 2002 finals were full of surprises, with many early departures like France, Argentina, Portugal and Russia. In some ways, many results highlighted the potential so frequently offered by the underdogs. Who would have dreamt that the national team from Senegal could make it all the way to the quarterfinals, or Turkey, or what about Korea? For that matter, what about the Irish, the Japanese or the USA teams?

What I have found fascinating has been the ways in which children and young people follow every detail in the lives of their soccer football heroes. The David Beckham loose Mohawk inspired Turkish and American players to do their own hairstyles. Other children have identified with heroes like Swedish Hans Goren Erikson who manages the England team. BBC television showed children with the fronts of their hair shaved to mimic the balding patch at the front of the England Manager, and with wire rimmed specs, the kids also looked like Harry Potter charmed with football!

FIFA and UNESCO Joint Initiative used Soccer Football

Have you ever stopped to think about how children live out the persona of their heroes and heroines in sport, entertainment, music or fashion? How many David Beckhams, Papa Diops or Ronaldos will have re-played World Cup matches over the past few weeks in vacant lots, parks or beaches in all corners of the world? Change the sport and find parallel processes with role models like Venus and Serena Williams, or Tiger Woods.

Children direct powerful emotional energies towards adult role models. In addition to sporting heroes and heroines, children and young people draw enormously from the adults who live with them, or who carry on their adult lives creating space for children. This presents a huge challenge for child and youth care workers to walk the talk. Its worth remembering that like preparing for the World Cup, we’re helping to shape the next world champions!

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