It is not difficult to motivate children from neighbouring countries to meet and play football. Once they play together, they naturally want to talk and understand each other. From there, according to the German-Czech Football School project, it is only a short step to language learning. This project, which has been running since 2002, targets 6-13 year olds, although has proven particularly popular among nine and ten year olds. Over 400 German and Czech children has taken part from 2002-2011. The basic premise is for children to play football together and acquire language skills at the same time
in a way that is fun and engaging. Language learning activities accompany all training and travel activities. The language learning is based firstly around sport, teaching football-related vocabulary, then the learning moves on to more general subjects such as food and travel. The learning progresses in a more formalised way, building on the initial vocabulary learning. Coaches also attend international workshops, seminars and study visits. As explained by the Football School Project Manager Gerald Prell, “Our goal is not that children learn the language perfectly, it is about reducing barriers to language learning and learning in a playful way”.
The project is unique in European terms
. It has been awarded “most innovative sports project” (Mastercard Award 2002), "second-best intercultural project in the world" (BMW Group Life Award 2006) and has been honoured for “Special Achievements in the Process of German and European Unification” by the German Government in 2008.
Football School is largely organised by a non-profit initiative set up in Rehau, Germany. Since 2002, several projects have been implemented and in the Czech Republic, a similar non-profit initiative has been set up in Frantiskovy Lazne and Skalná which mirrors the activities of the German Lead Partner. The organisers introduce and promote the project at regional football clubs in Germany and the Czech Republic
. Interested clubs then organise project days to demonstrate the approach to the young people, following which interested children join the football school and train there. Talented players are selected to go to cross-border camps and tournaments all over Europe. The best and most talented players are selected to join ‘Team Europe’ and play against European clubs, such as Manchester United, FC Porto, Ajax and Bayern Munich, in a special tournament. This annual ‘Mini-Euro’ event attracts many visitors and a lot of media attention, not only to the project but also to the region.
Sometimes the project has to overcome the barrier of club representatives and parents who do not see the added value of language learning in the context of football training. But, since the football-related activities are professionally organised and help the participants to become better players, the parents ‘tolerate’ the accompanying learning activities. After a while, most parents and club representatives who were initially sceptical about the added value of the language learning and travelling see how can help the children to develop.
The potential for replication is generally high. However, it requires expertise from different professional fields to be brought together, ranging from international project management to social and youth worker skills and experienced language trainers. Until recently, the project was aimed at boys. However, since football has become increasingly popular among girls too, the project initiators decided to set up a mixed tournament and a special girls’ event in summer 2011, accompanying the Women’s World Cup in Germany. The Football School is well established in the region and has even inspired several twin projects in other neighbouring areas, such as the Baltic Football School and the German-Dutch Football School.
Tel: +49 9283 898284
Fax: +49 9283 591978
Deutsch-TschechischeFussballschule, Gerberstrasse 11a, D-95111 Rehau