The World Cup, Fair Play and Building Empathy

Wherever in the world you are, the FIFA World Cup 2018 has undoubtedly been a hot topic of conversation. Here in England, we are waiting with bated breath for our first match of the knockout stages as we watch some of the giants of the game like Germany and Spain crash out early in the tournament.

Whatever your take on the World Cup, or football in general, this tournament has provided some great talking points that can be used in school. The obvious choice here would be P.E. lessons – discussing warm-ups, stretching, fatigue and athleticism. However, if you are working with slightly older children, this could present an excellent opportunity to look at some key issues around fair play and good sportsmanship

Christiano Ronaldo and Edinson Cavani
Christiano Ronaldo helping Edinson Cavani off of the pitch after he was injured during the knockout match between Uruguay and Portugal.

Thus far the competition has seen some of the best and worst of sportsmanship. In Saturday’s knockout match between Portugal and Uruguay PSG striker, Edinson Cavani was responsible for giving Uruguay a 2-1 lead in the second half. However, he suffered an injury just 17 minutes before the end of the game and was forced to leave the pitch, at which point Portugal forward Christiano Ronaldo supported him on his shoulder and helped him over to his medical staff.

Talking with your class about this act of sportsmanship could be a great way to get some really interesting conversations going (especially if you have some out of control end of term football matches of your own!). Did Ronaldo have to do what he did? How does this make you feel about him as a person? If you were losing an important game, would you help out the person who scored their goals?

Chris Bass, Educational Specialist

Chris Bass
Avantis Educational Specialist (UK)

Similarly, you could look at the antics of Panama and Tunisia in their group stage games against England

Harry Kane
In England’s first game of the group stages Panama were heavily criticised for their aggressive tackles on England striker Harry Kane.

How do your students feel these incidents should have been dealt with? Was it fair that they weren’t punished? Is this good sportsmanship?

One of the biggest issues teachers can face when trying to generate these kinds of conversations is that for young people empathising with someone they have never met, doing something they have never done can be tricky. However, by using ClassVR to put them into someone else’s shoes we can give students access to a deeper lever of experience than they would otherwise have access to.

This can be extended far beyond the world cup and conversations around fair play. ClassVR can give you access to parts of the world that would otherwise be impossible for students to access – looking at the aftermath of an earthquake or the devastation caused by a volcano can allow students to really empathise with how other people might be feeling, allowing them to gain a better understanding of the world from other people’s points of view.

How do you teach your students about empathy? Get in touch on Twitter at @ClassVR or on Facebook at and let us know your top tips.