The Birth of a Club: looking at local football to learn about the past

Oct 18, 2020

EDU Resources

History Teacher Geir Ove helps us connect local football clubs to their historical context

Preparing to take your students on a journey through local history? Why not choose football? By looking at the conditions that determined the formation of local football clubs, you can help your students connect their interests to local history, culture, economics, and politics in the early 20th Century.

This is done in small groups in the classroom, using guided debate techniques, including a very handy dialogue board and form to categorize causes of events.

In this article:


Vålerenga IF’s football team, 1930 (Photo: Henriksen & Steen)

Vålerenga IF’s football team, 1930 (Photo: Henriksen & Steen / National Library of Norway).

Football clubs in their local context

How does the birth of a local football club influence the identity of its supporters? In the first of a series of Learning Activities about football history and inclusion, Geir Ove Halvorsen takes the example of Vålerenga IF, a Norwegian football team, brings it to the classroom, and asks the students to help him answer this question.

By answering this question, and thanks to a guided dialogue that puts them at the centre of the learning process, students find out about industrialization, urbanization and the social, cultural and political history of the early 20th century, and discuss how this can influence the creation of a football club. Geir Ove Halvorsen explains:

I think this resource works well, because it helps students see how football clubs are an important, historical, part of society. It also shows that there have been different causes for their establishment. In the activity I want the students to use historical sources, discuss and finally agree upon the most important causes. This resource can be easily transferred to other clubs in other countries!

From local events to the history of the 20th century

The activity is extremely versatile: you can make it yours by changing the football club at its core. In fact, while Geir used the birth of VIF as the central example, you can easily adapt it to a football club that is closer to your national context, or even ask the students to decide the club they would like to look at. The only prerequisite: the club should have been founded in the first quarter of the 20th Century.

Designed to teach how to have a productive discussion with your peers, including everyone in the conversation, it is geared toward students in their last years of high school (17-19), and can be used to introduce/consolidate the 20th Century in history lessons, or to do a practical dialogue and debate exercise during civics classes. 

At the same time, it offers students instruments that they will be able to use in other contexts: the technique used, the dialogue board, can be applied to essays, group presentations, or posters.

Practicing inclusion and understanding

In short, use this activity if you have older students that: 

  • are about to start/have just finished studying the beginning of the 20th Century; 
  • struggle with group activities and debates in which each member of the team has to argue a position; 
  • struggle to argue their position, either in spoken exercises or in writing
  • want to know more about local history in a broader context.

Get the resource

Access and use the educational resource “the Birth of a Club” on Historiana. Find out more about Geir Ove’s teaching in an interview we did in the summer of 2020.

Article Tags:   20th century  |   every-day life  |   identity  |   local history  |   teaching

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