Civics Lessons Through Sport: The 2022 World Cup

Written by Mr. O’Grady, a Grade 7 teacher at Father John Kelly Catholic Elementary School

This year’s World Cup was very special, and very controversial.

This was the first time since the 1986 World Cup in Mexico that Canada had qualified for a World Cup. Our class decided to celebrate Canada’s participation in the World Cup by putting together a picture collage highlighting the matches to be played and the social, political and cultural issues surrounding them.

On Nov. 20, the World Cup began with the host country, Qatar, playing Ecuador and losing 2-0. Qatar was a controversial host country, as my class discussed, because of their restrictive laws concerning women and the way they treated the migrant workers. It was also pointed out by the class that their bid to host the World Cup was shrouded by evidence of bribery and corruption by FIFA.

In the first games of the Group Stage, the class witnessed the Iranian national team not singing their national anthem in support of protestors in their country who were demonstrating against their government’s treatment of women. At this game, there were Iranian fans who flew their country’s flag with “WOMEN” written on it. Also, there were upsets in those early games, with both Argentina and Germany losing their matches. Canada, which we all were eagerly awaiting, lost to Belgium 1-0 with Alphonso Davies missing on a penalty shot. We also saw Cristiano Ronaldo score in Portugal’s opening game to become the first player to score in five World Cups.

Our class was excited that in Canada’s second game, Alphonso Davies scored Canada’s first-ever World Cup goal.

In the final games of the Group Stage, powerhouses like Belgium and Germany failed to advance. Morocco had the most points ever by an African team in the Group Stage.

In the knockout stage, all of our class’s favourites – England, Brazil, Portugal and Spain – lost. Beating the Netherlands in the quarterfinals, Argentina became the first team in World Cup history to win five shootouts. Morocco became the first team from Africa to make it to the semi-finals. France became the first team since 2002 to reach consecutive World Cup Finals, this time their opponent would be Argentina.

The final game on Dec. 18 had it all. In the opinion of many, it was the best World Cup Final ever. There were penalty kicks, extra time and a shootout to decide the champion. Argentina went up 2-0, only to have France respond by tying the game and sending it into extra time where Messi and Mbappe exchanged goals to send it into penalty kicks, where Argentina came out on top winning 4-2 and being crowned the 2022 World Cup Champion. The last time Argentina won the World Cup they were led by soccer (or football) legend, Diego Maradona.

The class really enjoyed watching and discussing the games and the political and social context behind the matches. It was a great way to discuss topics such as human rights and how governments treat their fellow citizens.

Our class invited other classes in the school to come down and look at the collage and engaged with the other students in seeing if they could remember what each picture meant with respect to the game.

This project was also fun, because it was the first World Cup in which we, as a class, could see the World Cup winner being awarded during the school year.