Boys playing football in the UNICEF-funded safe park in South Africa. Credit: UNICEF UK/South Africa 2008/Andy Brown

Boys playing football in the UNICEF-funded safe park in South Africa. Credit: UNICEF UK/South Africa 2008/Andy Brown

Soccer is the world’s game and can connect us with a world community.  For one month every four years it culminates in the World Cup, this June 11-July 11.  This list is abridged from the longer list located in the Play! Chapter of Growing Up Global.

1. Do the WAKA WAKA and tap in to the global game through FIFA (pronounced “FEE-fa”). World Cup sponsor www.fifa.com gives game highlights and schedules, but it’s also a portal to the excitement of the game in each country.  Hit the Teams tab, click on country flags and explore!  Dance to Shakira’s World Cup song, WAKA WAKA, found here – in 3D!

2. Follow a few international teams. Pick favorites – based on your heritage, favorite food, a language you want to learn, your favorite jersey, or even where your finger stops when you spin the globe. Make a flag of your country to wave during the games.  Go farther:  Growing Up Global has recommendations for age-appropriate foreign films, food ideas, music and more.

3. Learn about your favorite players’ lives. “Footballers” are many countries’ biggest celebrities and their life stories can inspire.

4. Cheer for the U.S.A.. There’s no reason you can’t be a patriot and still grow up global. Track the U.S. team. Where are your favorite U.S. players and coaches from?

5. How are women and girls doing? Does the country you follow have a women’s team? What obstacles might girls in other countries face as they get serious about sports? Cheer on the long-time world’s #1 women’s soccer team: U.S.A.

6. Get to know players or their parents with a different worldview. Soccer can open a door to meeting local families from different cultures, since the children of immigrants are more likely to join a soccer team than any other sports team. And those parents might make the best coaches since they likely grew up with it as their #1 sport.

7. Adults can play, too, in leagues across the country. My cousin’s team in New Jersey was organized by a Chinese restaurant owner, and included Nigerians, Brazilians, Central Americans, and Iranians. They were cab drivers, doctors, and CEOs – but those distinctions faded away on the turf.

8. If you travel abroad, try to attend a local football (soccer) game. Few events will show local culture and passions more than a football match, even if it’s a nearby youth league a waiter told you about.

9. Watch a soccer movie. Ages 10 & up: Bend It Like Beckham has become the classic. My favorite for all ages: The Great Match, a comedy showing remote tribal villagers in Mongolia, Niger, and Brazil trying to get TV reception for the 2002 World Cup final – and many more!

10. Help all kids access soccer and sports. Donate outgrown shin guards and cleats.  Support kids in the U.S. and worldwide to play as a means of getting healthy and staying in school.

Find out other great resources for connecting families with the world through daily updates on the Growing Up Global Facebook group

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