Spirit of the Game

Spirit of the Game is a celebration and a questioning of the values that are expressed by those who play the beautiful game at whatever level. We are particularly interested in what sort of role model our very highly rewarded players provide and want to ask – What constitutes a football hero?

A real page turner for teenagers of both sexes.  Even young men, who normally wouldn’t go near a book, simply can’t put Spirit of the Game down!

A tough, heart-warming and uplifting tale with more than a touch of earthbound football wizardry in the shape of the legendary Stanley Matthews, football’s greatest ever ambassador. The story explores the emotional upheaval engulfing Jamie Steele, a teenager who eventually comes to reject the image of a modern day role model in favour of one from an earlier time in a triumph of spirit over adversity. The novel seamlessly cross-pollinates fact with fiction, contrasting the more sinister elements that define modern football culture – racism and hooliganism – with a glimpse into the life and times that shaped Stanley Matthews’ game.

Geoff Francis passion for football began early, with Stanley Matthews a boyhood hero. ‘When I was seven years old, I was asked, “What are you going to be?” I replied, “I am going to be an artist or I am going to be Stanley Matthews”. In those days the slightest prowess with a ball earned the accolade, “Hey, Stanley Matthews!” The comparison made many a young boy feel proud.

‘Eventually, I have become recognised as an artist and this, in turn, has allowed me to fulfil the other part of my naive prediction. I have written a script which has allowed me to engage with, and give a voice to, the life of Stanley Matthews.

from Stanley Matthews: The Black Man with a White Face (by Geoff Francis, published 2010)

An ideal resource for teachers wishing to deal with racism, social issues and historical perspectives via fiction and drama.

Some Strong Language. Suitable for ages 15+

New pocketbook / semi-graphic novel format direct from Bonobo TV – post and packing included in the price

  • paperback  £5.99
  • e-book £1.99 .
  • Or buy the ‘Stan Pack’: Spirit of the Game plus Black Man with a White Face for only £14

The paperback is also available from Amazon

“I am always looking out for powerful interactive tools to deliver an important message to our young people today – a generation in crisis! I have
been working with Geoff Francis for many years to this end. His brilliant book ‘Spirit of the Game’ has been an invaluable medium for working with
some of the most disengaged, dysfunctional and hard to reach young people in the country. The underlying themes of racism, prejudice, football as a
philosophy, alongside kindness to animals and therapeutic approaches have been a catalyst of transformation for many young lives. Thank you Geoff from
us all!”

Linda Porter B.A.Cert.Ed. MIPTI, BFRP, MACTA, Dip.Phy. FMHET
Founder of award winning HET (Holistic Educational Therapy) programme and internationally respected Educational Consultant for Alternative Educational

A powerful interactive programme with a companion website plus accreditation is supporting the whole framework of the Young Adults’ Novel ‘Spirit of the Game’.

Since April 2012, educationalist Linda Porter B.A.Cert.Ed. MIPTI, BFRP, MACTA, Dip.Phy. FMHET has been running a pilot scheme with young people between the ages of 11-17 using the young adults’ novel Spirit of the Game by Geoff Francis.

Lin says, ” Not only has it been great fun in which everyone readily engaged, but it has offered a huge insight into how young people will respond to interactive meaningful and topical materials.”

The pilot was carried out at Norton College in Worcester, a beacon alternative Educational Provider awarded ‘Good’ status from OFSTED. The College provides a unique service for some of the most complex and challenging young people in the country. As such, Norton proved to be a good and robust testing ground for the ‘Spirit of the Game’ programme.

One of the first students to receive their certificate of learning in life skills and sportsmanship ‘a la Stanley Matthews’ is Matt Benson,
who received his award from recent Wolves football legend Matt Murray.

With Geoff Francis’ short, sharp, punctuated writing style, Spirit of the Game could have been tailor made to address the limited attention span which is prevalent today. The pilot scheme provided the opportunity to address the many themes that Geoff has embedded and cleverly woven throughout the book, particularly racism, and which have dominated headlines throughout this last football season and in the build-up to Euro 2012.

The pilot scheme was delivered to individuals within a youth culture which is often aggressive, violent and steeped in racism, homophobic bullying, sexism and ageism. Lin Porter has a history of turning around the lives of young people like this. The use of Spirit of the Game in her curriculum proved to be exceptionally successful and a companion teaching resource was developed by her to accompany it.

This interfaces with a programme of interactive materials already independently developed by Lin within her renowned Holistic Educational Therapy (HET) programme. HET provides solutions to address the underlying issues behind complex, challenging antisocial behaviour in a proven effective way that also engages parents.

The outcomes of the young person’s experience through the programme can be accredited, even for the most disengaged learners (as can that of the parents). Learners have to discuss and explore the story, its themes, characters, author’s voice and style at every stage and level. But more importantly they have to address the social issues raised in order to get an ASDAN certification for a ten hour block of study. This provides a gateway leading to further projects exploring what lies behind stereotypical attitudes in today’s culture.

The participants are invited to explore the issues within mediums with which they are comfortable like rap, street art and hip hop plus social media such as You Tube and Facebook. This serves to make the book, and programme, highly accessible and interactive for its intended audience.

These research projects are also accredited and lead to short courses of specialist interest in football, sports fitness and peer mentoring programmes as well as covering PSHE issues on drugs and sexual health awareness. ASDAN qualifications are equivalent to GCSE and AS levels and feature in educational league tables. Uniquely, parents are also able to gain certificates in working with their children through these projects. Completion of the programme has been found to reduce the need for some medications, such as those often prescribed for ADHD. There is also a CPD programme for professionals who can use their certificates towards foundation and master degrees.

Lin says “For all those involved in the field of education (and football), this tool proves to be ‘in the true Spirit of the Game’!”

The Spirit of the Game Initiative is strongly endorsed through a Message of Support by the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General of the United Nations on Sport for Development and Peace, Mr. Wilfried Lemke.