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Scoring high on soccer teamwork

Football Curriculum Guide, The Football Association and The Physical Education Association of The United Kingdom, Available from The Football Association, 9 Wyllyotts Place, Potters Bar, Herts. EN6 2JD, Tel: 01707 651840, Pounds 12.75 (incl postage)

Presumably, somewhere in the original preamble to the national curriculum proposals, it tells us that the curriculum aims to serve the national interest. It probably doesn't explain, however, whether this includes the interests of the national obsession as well. If it had, then football within the national curriculum would be committed to individual ball skills, balance, speed and control . . . the very areas where British teams competing in Europe (with the possible exception of Nottingham Forest) have been shown to be so lacking.

As it happens, football in the national curriculum is only there as an example of an "invasion game" (this refers to the players, not the spectators), one in which team skills, as opposed to individual skills, are paramount.

This new pack, following the demands of the national curriculum, concentrates on team skills for young boys and girls at key stages 2, 3 and 4. While identifying certain ball techniques that will be of value, the emphasis is on team play - winning possession, using possession and defending against the opponents when they are in possession. Interestingly, the pack includes an explanation (or is it a defence?) of this approach and says that technique and skill practices have too often dominated games lessons, allowing precious little time at the end of the lesson for the game.

The folder comprises a wide range of laminated cards, most of which offer ideas for teaching football within games lessons and within the national curriculum. In addition to the lesson ideas there are also sections on assessment, recording and reporting, ethics and fair play and health and safety. There are no major surprises in the contents, although an interesting section entitled "Challenges" is relatively novel. For example, Challenge Three asks: "Your team has one player less than the opposition. What will be your teams' (sic) attacking and defensive tactics? The score is 1-1." Presumably you try to keep the ball down by the corner flag!

The pack is at great pains to point out that it is a "guide" and not a programme. This is a good point to make, although it should be stressed that the contents are fairly comprehensive and, with a bit of digging around, teachers will find all they need.

The combined imprint of the Football Association and the Physical Education Association of the United Kingdom ensure a sense of authority and respectability. They also, sadly, guarantee that the pack is dull to the point of impenetrability. Nowhere can you find words like "fun" and "enjoyment". The tone is more like a dentistry manual than a book about the greatest game in the world. But then watching British teams being turned over by the continentals can be a bit like having your teeth pulled.

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