Today I talk to Neil Speirs about his favourite quote from a footballer, as he shows me that ‘Footballers Have Feelings Too’. To hear more from Neil, come along to the New Town Theatre on the 17th August and the 24th August.

Do you have a favourite quote from a footballer?

In a recent article in The Players Tribune [1], Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku very powerfully recalls the moment that he realised that his family were poor and the look on his mum’s face; ‘I knew we were struggling. But when she was mixing in water with the milk, I realized it was over, you know what I mean? This was our life.  I didn’t say a word. I didn’t want her to stress. I just ate my lunch. But I swear to God, I made a promise to myself that day. It was like somebody snapped their fingers and woke me up. I knew exactly what I had to do, and what I was going to do.  I couldn’t see my mother living like that. Nah, nah, nah. I couldn’t have that.’

Why is it important?

This great sense of loyalty, of family solidarity – of love, respect and commitment to his mother is so important to be heard coming from the mouth of a towering 94 kg top class footballer.  There was no way he wanted her to live like this, he doesn’t once mention how he wanted a better life, but rather that she deserved one.  Lukaku recalls praying in the dark at home with his brother and mum, knowing things were going to get better – but when he came home from school one day to find her crying he told her; ‘Mum, it’s gonna change. You’ll see. I’m going to play football for Anderlecht, and it’s going to happen soon. We’ll be good. You won’t have to worry anymore.’

 What can it teach us?

I suppose this teaches us about family love, it brings to light the poverty that people are subjected to experience and it outlines the absolute determination that Lukaku had to keeping his promise to his mum.  The work that he put in day by day – it didn’t come to him instantaneously, but through being committed to working hard over time.  Any young (or older) fans that hear this, will be inspired to make positive life choices, to take care of ourselves and others – and to take part in life and become who we are meant to be – regardless of where we grow up.

Amusingly Lukaku said the promise he made was that he’d play for Anderlecht by the time he was 16 – he was 11 days late in achieving that!  But he now plays for Manchester United and represents his country.

How can examples like this tie in to formal learning? 

We can learn from them.  Across the globe, footballers and other athletes have actively engaged with issues related to peace, racism and social inequities.  These voices highlight important social and political topics, which can be used as a way to engage learners with school curriculum.  This critical pedagogy strips the class anchorage from  curriculum  and makes it feel more relevant to learners – especially working-class students who are not fully participating in their education.

[1] https://www.theplayerstribune.com/en-us/articles/romelu-lukaku-ive-got-some-things-to-say h us)