MEITS Blog


Football, Multilingualism and Interdisciplinarity

by Lisa-Maria Müller

“Tooor, Tooor, Tooor, Tooor, Tooor, Tooor! I wer’ narrisch!” Cordoba 1978, Austria beats Germany 3:2 – a legendary victory the country still hasn’t quite recovered from (not least because Austria isn’t necessarily spoiled with football victories). 

Why am I telling you about this? Well, firstly I am obviously trying to appeal to my football affine audience (hi there, lonely soul). And secondly, I wanted to tell you why watching a football game has never been straightforward for me. It’s a game between two teams, one wins, one loses, or nobody does either and you feel like you’ve wasted the last 90 minutes watching 22 people kicking a football around a field. The expectation is that you pick one at the start of the game (or the season, or sometimes even your life) and then you cheer this team on until the bitter end.

At international sporting events the expectation is that you support your national team – who else? You might get away with supporting a different team if yours did not qualify (hello there, Austria) but otherwise, such a choice would be rather uncommon. But what do you do if your heart beats for more than one nation? Either, because you were born in one and now live in another, or because your parents are from two different countries?

The latter is the case for me and I always found it hard to pick a team to support. People might say that this is why I chose a French partner, so I’d get a shot at finally supporting a stronger team … (Allez les bleus!).

It was always natural for me to root for more than one team and be happy for their victories. When Austria played against Poland in 2008, I supported both teams. And I wasn’t disappointed when they played 1:1 – a perfect outcome for me.

I feel equally about my two hats as a researcher and a practitioner. I can never quite pick one side. On the one hand this can be quite tiring because I sometimes feel like I am a Jack-of-all-trades but master of none. I have an understanding of teaching practice but only having taught for 1.5 years myself before moving to academia full-time, I always feel like an intruder when I try to define myself as a teacher. What do I know, really, about the day-to-day life of a teacher under pressures of marking and performing? Can I really relate to being caught in the repetitive routines of a daily life in school? Similar thoughts come to mind as a researcher, when I sometimes feel like my obsession with the applicability of research is keeping me from concentrating enough on the nitty-gritty details. Sometimes I get carried away with wanting to apply findings instead of running boring stats.

But actually, quite like supporting more than one team in football, being part of more than one team in my professional life, I get double the chance of victories. It is a great feeling to be part of more than one in-group and to be able to relate to lived experiences (despite only short ones). It opens up new perspectives and allows me to focus on questions that I believe will make a difference in practice.

So, whether I shout Tor! or gol! My ideal case scenario is that two teams come together and do their best for 90 minutes. Essentially, the process of a football game is one of action and reaction. No team can exist meaningfully without the other. If one of them leaves, the other loses their motivation to do their best. So by giving your best in your team, aren’t you automatically also pushing the other to the heights of their performance? In that case, is a match ever a real competition, or is it a symbiosis?

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