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Monmouth College students learn soccer history by watching FIFA World Cup

This is the first time that both the World Cup and the Anthropology of Soccer class have been held at the same time.

MONMOUTH, Ill. — With the 2022 FIFA World Cup underway in Qatar, one Monmouth College professor decided to use that to her advantage and teach students about how soccer is a microcosm of globalization.

Petra Kuppinger, Ph.D., Professor and Chair of the college's Anthropology program, teaches an Anthropology of Soccer class that uses soccer to demonstrate how globalization affects the modern world.

"I introduce soccer for everybody, starting with people who know nothing to the ultimate soccer nut and try to get them all together," Kuppinger said. "And what I do is I work with soccer from a social science perspective."

Students learn not only the history of soccer, but also about the 1900s English Working Class, Globalization, and current world history. To help students approach those topics, Kuppinger uses soccer as a vehicle to ask specific questions.

"Is the team going to win, or the nation going to win, that has the most money?" Kuppinger said. "So just recently we also looked at, so who actually has the most money? What is the club in the world that is the richest? And it's Real Madrid, so is it a surprise that they win so much?"

Kuppinger also uses excerpts from two books, “How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization,” by Franklin Foer and "Soccernomics" by Simon Kuper to guide her teaching.

And just as soccer brings together fans from around the world, her teaching methods attract students from different disciplines and countries, like freshman Bronte de Zwart, a Mathematics and Physics double major from Adelaide, Australia.

"I'm a huge soccer fan, said de Zwart. "I came all the way from Australia to play college soccer."

Senior Anthony Williams, a Communications Studies and Business double major from Jamaica is also a soccer fan and said he signed up for Kuppinger's class because he was interested in how people perceive the game.

"I signed up for this class because even though I play football, I'm a big soccer fan," Williams said. "I feel like you know, soccer kind of brings out a lot in terms of people and how they view the sport and everything."

And how different people from around e world view the same sport is something freshman Zach Browning,  a Business Administration major, has noticed as a member of the college's men's soccer team.

"This was my first year playing with people that are more international," Browning said. "We have players on our team who are from Australia, France, Trinidad & Trobago, we have players from places all over and just being able to relate with people from different cultures ... I think this class does a good way in portraying that."

And no semester of Anthropology of Soccer is complete without watching at least one international soccer match, which is what the class did on Nov. 21, when the USA and Wales drew 0-0.

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