The pressure is always on for parents to turn every waking moment of their children’s lives into an educational experience.
But what of the international festival of kicking a ball around a field? What can your kids possibly learn from that? Well, quite a lot, as it turns out. And we’re not talking about getting your kids to look up the participating countries in an atlas – that’s for amateurs. What we’ve been looking at is lessons that will drive you on through life.
Then, maybe you don’t feel as bad about leaving them under a pub table with a pack of crayons and some paper while you absorb every detail of that crucial Colombia-Japan group match.
So, what have we got for you?
Enlarge their vocabulary
Imagine how much richer your children’s vocabulary will become while they cower underneath the table while you and your friends turn the air a deep shade of blue with the most creative Anglo-Saxon combinations the human mind at its limits can come up with.
And if they are good at lip-reading or the pitch-side microphones align just right, they can pick up swears in a dozen new languages too.
Football really can bring the world to a closer understanding.
Exercise is really good for you (and your bank balance)
Okay, so a healthy body is a great way to help keep a healthy mind and enjoy active life until you’re as old as Roger Milla*, and that’s great, but have you seen the watches on these guys, the cars they drive?
Showing your kids the benefits of running back and forth and learning to kick things with two feet could end up with your mortgage getting paid off. Get them started with a baby walker!
Appreciate the value of self-belief
Tournament after tournament, the German national team turn up, lay their towels down in the next round, get results, then after breaking the hearts of a few million fans, head home with their VW camper vans packed with silverware.
Talent is secondary; it’s all about preparation and arrogance. The next time your little darlings question the wisdom of getting up early to beat the bank holiday traffic or double checking that they’ve packed the retractor in their pencil case, just draw their attention to the four stars on each German player’s chest representing the four times they have won the cup.
And if that doesn’t work, ignore them and do it your way anyway, because that’s how they do things in Germany.
Cheaters sometimes prosper (but there is a terrible price)
Okay, so Maradona has a world cup trophy in his toilet and is loved by billions of people around the world, but have you seen the state of him recently? The guilt from his Hand of God goal in Mexico in 1986 has obviously taken its toll on him. Likewise, Luis Suarez looks seriously haunted. Perhaps his diet of Italian defenders’ shoulders doesn’t agree with him.
Did the ball really cross the line in 1966? If it didn’t, would that explain why England have looked nothing like winning as much as a church tombola since then?
These examples should be more than enough to keep your charges on the straight and narrow.
There are some national anthems out there that have to be heard to be believed. For every stirring blast through the Marseillaise before a France game or the surprisingly moving melody of Deutschland Uber Alles, there is a handful of theme tunes that sound as though they were bought as part of a job lot at the end of the nineteenth century.
Watching enough World Cup shows really gives your little ones the chance to sort the wheat from the chuffing awful.
Learn that life is cruel
Perhaps the most important life lesson of all.
While we all want the best for our kids, it’s best that we temper their expectations for the future with an introductory course at the school of hard knocks. What better way to toughen them up than to plunge their tender little hearts into the emotional maelstrom of following their national team in a World Cup?
There are so many painful ways for their dreams to be extinguished – the slow, inevitable crush of being outclassed in every department; the sudden reversal of fortune that send their innards dropping through the floor; or the nerve-jangling near miss of the shot that would secure victory but dribbles past the post. All of it precious life experience.
Nothing lasts for ever
Finally, if your children aren’t that bothered about football and in revolt at the fact that football has knocked their Peppa Pig marathons from its usual dominance, send them off to bed early for the month and tell them that all good things come to an end. The normal rule of law will be restored soon enough.
*A guy who played for Cameroon at Italia 90 who was so old it was thought he was lying about his age even though he was officially 38. He was back four years later as well.