Children’s & Young Adult

How the World Cup can engage and excite young readers by Eve Ainsworth


There’s been huge controversy around the 2022 FIFA World Cup. But in this article Eve Ainsworth reflects on the good that can come of it, and the young footballers it might inspire.

The countdown for the World Cup has started and, like many football fans, my excitement is building. Putting aside moral concerns about the location, I am a great believer that football at an international level can be both inspiring and motivating – something powerful enough to unite people from all different backgrounds.

You really don’t need to be the biggest football fan to be drawn into the emotional wonder of the World Cup. It’s always amazing to see underdog countries play out of their skin and put on memorable and surprising performances; to see individual players, sometimes the most unexpected ones, rise up to become new international stars, with crowds coming together to cheer them on. It really is a unique and compelling experience.

My first World Cup experience was watching Italia 90 as a young child. I remember being addicted to every game and feeling a bubble of anticipation as England made their way through to the knockout stages. It really did feel like we could go all the way (even though this was sadly not the case). In classrooms across the country people were gripped, united by the excitement of the beautiful game.

The World Cup can be a great inspiration to young people to take part in a sport, or, if you have two left feet like me, to continue to be an avid spectator. I am hoping that this competition will help to motivate many young people to get involved in sports in either capacity, especially as this is seen as a great way to help mental health and wellbeing.

There is also a great opportunity here to open new debates and discussions amongst young people. The World Cup offers a chance to explore the geography and make-up of the countries taking part – the flags, culture and the history of the cup itself. Without realising it, you can be opening up a range of subjects within a topic that so many young people are passionate about.

For your reluctant readers, tournaments like this are a great opportunity to promote books that will excite many children. My own book, Gamechangers, about the history of women’s football and the current success of the Lionesses, aims to draw in readers that might not always be keen to pick up a book. Other authors such as Tom Palmer, Matt Oldfield, Helen Pielichaty, Dan Freeman and Kwame Alexander provide a range of football-related books that will appeal to many young avid football fans.

With any luck, England and Wales will storm this year’s competition and make us all proud. Hopefully there will be lots of talking points and exciting moments. However, if our team doesn’t do as well as expected all is not lost. Our fantastic England women’s team, the Lionesses, will be playing their part in the Women’s World Cup 2023 in Australia/New Zealand – and I’m expecting that will be a real treat!

So get ready for a World Cup with lots of talking points. I’m sure many young people, fans or not, will be enjoying the competition this year and will be feeling inspired and motivated by what they see.

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