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Everything I Ever Needed to Know I Learned From Football


As an American who went to public schools, things like geography, world history, economics, and international relations were not exactly my strengths. But that’s okay, because I found a better way to learn: watching football. I have learned more about those subjects and more from being a football fan, and had lots of fun learning, too. In fact, everything I ever needed to know I learned from football.

This attendance map of Italy for last season is also how I see Italian geography

Geography: Not only can I find so many more places on a map now that I have been watching football, I can name many more countries, too. I can also name their capital cities, identify their national flags, and am even familiar with their national anthems. If you asked me about Turkey, for example, I could tell you that Ankara is the capital city. But Istanbul is the largest city, and also the place where the Champions League Final was held in 2005. I don’t care to remember any more about that.

World History: It is not unusual to see footage of ancient ruins or sites nearby when a big match is played. But it is also interesting to learn how some football rivalries even today have been influenced by events years ago, even hundreds of years ago. Or to have matches compared to famous battles that took place in the past. Even the game itself has a rich history of its own. Football may be being played today, but it and its fans and rivalries have evolved from the pages of history.

This cathedral took nearly 600 years to complete and is the iconic landmark for Milano

Economics: If you are a Serie A fan, you’ll know first hand how football and economics go hand in hand. And I’m not talking transfer fees and wage bills, either. There has been a mass exodus of quality/expensive players since Italy’s economy tanked, and a mass exodus of fans, too. A healthy economy lends itself to a strong league.

International Relations: during the recent international break, Russia came to Montenegro to play a Euro qualifier. But within the first minute, a Montenegrin fan threw a flare at the Russian keeper and burned him, causing the match to be abandoned. While that was obviously a stupid thing to do, one would need to understand the climate influencing Mr. Stupid. For example, Montenegro acknowledges Kosovo’s independence, but Russia does not. And Montenegro is also looking to join NATO, which Russia does not want them to do, either. So while it was a very stupid thing to do, it was also based on an enmity built from current relations between the two countries. As are so many events within and surrounding football matches.

Life is not fair, but if you're respectful and keep your cool, calls will go in your favor, too

But these are just a few of the things I’ve learned from football. For example, I’ve also learned that life isn’t always fair, but if you are patient, the ref calls will usually also swing in your favor at some point. I learned that nothing is worth getting up early for… except football, even when it’s a loss. Also that you can legitimately call in sick to work on gamedays if necessary… it’s called football fever, and it’s not only very serious, but also highly contagious. And that having a savings account entitled “Milano” as a Milan fan is perfectly healthy and highly recommended if you are looking to travel to that great city again for another match.

You can have your college degrees, your books and papers. But I’ll take football as my university any day of the week. Not only has it provided me with a passionate sport to spend my every spare waking moment on, a sport that makes me feel like no other, but it has also opened my eyes to the world and taught me things that books never could. Everything I ever needed to know I learned from football, and that’s how I’m teaching my kids, too.


This post inspired by the music of Animotion’s “Obsession”


Our next match is
Milan vs. Sampdoria
Sunday, April 12 • 20:45 CEST (2:45pm EDT)