To help students consolidate their understanding of the similarities and differences between key groups (such as parties, countries, ideologies or religions), get them to produce an emotionally-charged sports commentary in the form of a dialogue between two pundits which transforms the ‘groups’ into ‘teams’.


Case Study: The European Reformation

After studying the European Reformation with my younger students, I provide them with the following initial overview of their task:

It is 1525. The Reformation is at its height. Against this tense background, Italy (Catholic) and Germany (Protestant) are about to have a celebrity football match. Pope Leo X is inspirational captain of the Italian team, and Martin Luther is leading the Protestant team.

Produce a blow-by-blow account of how the match develops, making sure that their different religious views dictate the “shape of the game”. For example, maybe the Pope will insist on the referee speaking in Latin, which leads to an unfortunate “off the ball incident”. Maybe Luther has some trouble motivating his team to “play out of their skins” because he has already told them that “Good Works” won’t help them into heaven…it’s up to you to be as creative (and cheesy) as you can, using as many of the key words provided by your teacher as possible!

By all means change this to a cricket / basketball / other type of sport that you are more interested in.

Step 1: Converting historical knowledge into sporting analogies

We then proceed to remind ourselves of the key points of division between Protestants and Catholics by revisiting the key questions which they asked to “Martin Luther” in one half of the previous lesson, and “Pope Leo X” in the other half (Oscar-winning performances from myself in both instances, obviously). Pairs or groups of students are given a different one of these questions, recall what different answers were given by the Protestant and the Catholic, and then consider how they could turn this into a sporting metaphor.

Key Question Protestant view Catholic view Converted to sports commentary
Who is the head of your church? Nobody – ‘priesthood of all believers’ The Pope Protestants don’t have a manager / established ‘formation’; Catholics have a clear “captain” and team formation from Pope > Cardinals > Bishops (etc)
What is purgatory?


A fiction invented by Catholics A halfway house between heaven and hell The bench: Catholics can sit on the bench. Not the Lutherans – you’re either on the pitch, or on the coach!

To represent ‘indulgences’, the crowd could pray (or pay!) for the man on the bench, who then is able to join his teammates in the match!

What language do you think the bible should be in, and why? Latin, to ensure consistency and clarity Vernacular, so people can read it independently Players could sing their ‘national anthems’: Catholics will sing in Latin (commentator can’t understand it, but at least it’s harmonious); Protestants have it in English (all sing something slightly different to each other).

We then continue with this process – considering how to represent Catholic belief in transubstantiation, relics, monasteries, the seven deadly sins and clerical celibacy – until we have a range of ideas ready for the ‘game’. By the end of this stage, students are probably becoming clear on how the game might unfold from the moment the teams arrive on the pitch to the awards ceremony at the end.

Step 2: Creating the dialogue

The next task involves writing the actual dialogue. The best of these commentaries will not only make use of clever metaphors converting historical realities into sporting analogies, but also demonstrate a suitably humorous use of heightened emotion and cheesy clichés popular with sports commentators everywhere. Therefore, I like to spend a bit of time firstly discussing the concept of cliché and brainstorming some examples on the board (“sick as a parrot”, “game of two halves”, “over the moon”) that can be sprinkled into the pieces.

Students should then be given, or agree upon after discussion, a list of key words which they will all try to include in their work, before proceeding to write their final commentary. The following is an extract from an example produced by one of my students which gives a flavour of what is might result.

Kevin: Hi, and welcome to the Catholic-Lutheran Celebrity cup final, which promises to be an absolute football classic. It looks like the teams are coming out and just look at those team strips!

Barry: Incredible, Kevin! For the benefit of those of you listening on the radio, the Catholic strip is gorgeous silk, reflecting their belief in praising God with highly decorated churches and images!

Kevin: And look at the Lutherans in contrast – plain whites, showing their belief that the church should be plain and simple so we should focus on the Bible…

Barry: Quite breath-taking…and it appears the Pope and Martin are already arguing with the referee about whether the game should be refereed in Latin or in German – a bit of a replay of their argument about what language the Bible should be in, Kev! This could get really ugly…

Kevin: Well, the referee has blown the whistle and it’s ‘game on’…straight away the Catholic team are looking on form…the manager, Pope Leo X, has of course banned any of his team from getting married or even having girlfriends because he believes it distracts them from their devotion to God, and that strategy certainly seems to be paying dividends, doesn’t it, Barry?

Barry: Absolutely, Kev. The Lutherans do seem a little big sluggish today. Rather than promoting celibacy, Luther has allowed his team to get married and have children to honour God and his creation, but there have been criticisms that this has led them to take their eye off the prize…

Kevin: Yes, Barry. I’m sure that you share my concern about the rather worrying stories of WAGS like Katherine von Bora dragging the name of Lutheranism through the mud…

Kevin: Oh, and Pope Leo X has smashed one into the back of the net from nowhere, Barry!!!

Barry: Let’s see the replay – oh, yes, liquid football – passed from the bishop at the back, up to Cardinal Cajetan up the front, and then Pope Leo nutmegs Luther’s goalkeeper, Melanchthon, and wheels around to lap up the roar of the crowd!

Kevin: Proof, if proof be need be, that Leo’s clear sense of hierarchy has succeeded. He has always stressed to his players that Good Works will get them into heaven, and that has lifted their spirits on the pitch as well as off. A beautiful goal for the beautiful game.

Barry: Well, it’s difficult to know how the Lutherans can come back from that – it will be leaving a bitter taste in the mouth as Luther’s team stares defeat in the face and struggles to look itself in the mirror…


Taking it further

Some of the best dialogues should be converted into audio recordings, complete if possible with sound effects.

Moreover, I find it is very helpful to show students a few classic spoof comedy sketches of the sports commentary genres to provide some inspiration. My favourites, which can all be found on YouTube easily enough, are:

“World Cup 1994” by Alan Partridge (“He’s got a foot like a traction engine!”):

“Staring Final” from Big Train (“live from Wembley Stadium”!)

“Sky Football” from Mitchell and Webb (“the football will officially go on forever”)

“Alan Latchley meets Clive Anderson” by Peter Cook (“Football’s a cruel mistress”)