Football Mad

Download this eLesson Inspiration in PDF format: Football Mad e-lesson inspiration

Classroom activities

Here you’ll find some practical ideas for working with the clip.  Choose the ones that suit your teaching aims, particular group of learners, your teaching style, and then plan your own lesson.


‘Guess the Topic’

Ask your students to predict the topic of the poem based on 5 expressions taken from poem: go crazy / roll in mud / everyone cheers / a moment of fame / do gymnastics

‘Guess the Situation’

Put the following sentence on the board and ask your students to interpret the situation. “He is kissed by ten men, All sweaty and snotty” Who could ’he’ be? Why are ten men kissing him? Where could this be taking place?


Brainstorm ideas for ‘big achievements’. E.g. climbing Mount Everest, stepping foot on the moon, discovering penicillin etc. Then ask them to think of something they managed to do that they consider a ‘big achievement’ – no need for them to share this, just bring it to mind. Ask them to recall how they felt.

‘Key lexis’

Check understanding of key vocabulary, language chunks. E.g. score a goal, run up the pitch, wave your fist, stare, go crazy, roll in mud, do gymnastics, pray, moment of fame


‘Reflect on Title’

Ask your students to think about the title: ‘Football Mad’.  What does it mean? Who is ‘Football Mad’? In their view, what is the poet’s attitude to football?  How do they know? .. Ask them to listen a 2nd time and listen for the lines which reveal the poet’s attitude.

‘Spot special lexis’

Ask them to guess / work out the meaning of the following expressions: ‘wriggle your botty’, ‘chew the cud’, ‘go all religious’, ‘moment of fame’.  Then listen to the poem again, ask them to spot these expressions and put up their hands when they hear them. Pause the poem for a few seconds when hands go up and let them say what they heard.

 ‘Creative Gap Fill’

Put the following up on the board: ‘The world is_______ mad’ and ask your students to fill in the blank with as many words as they can. E.g. money, technology, speed, celebrity, smart phone, fast food.    Invite them to write a 4-liner poem about one of these themes, e.g. ‘Celebrity mad’.

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8 Responses to Football Mad

  1. Bill Templer February 17, 2014 at 7:44 pm #

    Good choice, Margit!

    Benjamin is a well-known Jamaican-British writer. Students could explore some of his other work, plenty of information online, also on youtube. His poems are a great energy-loaded example of *performance poetry*, a growing genre. It is also called *dub poetry*, performance in a Jamaican style.

    You can find an overview of Benji’s work in Wikipedia. In 2008, Benji was included in The Times list of Britain’s top 50 post-war writers. He also has written several very popular books for children.

    John Foster’s book Football Fever (2000) has this poem *Football Mad* and many others about this sport and the mania around it. His book is a nice introduction to poetry, centered on a familiar theme and a game most students really like. You can find Foster’s book on googlebooks and access some of the other poems, all about football.

    *Football Mad* may be a poem about Trevor Francis, a famous football star long in Birmingham where Benjamin was born and grew up. He was the first football player in the UK sold for more than 1 million pounds.

    QUESTIONS TO DISCUSS: Has football and some other spectator sports become too much of a big business? What do you think? What do you think Benji thinks? What are your own attitudes toward football as a popular game and ‘cult’ in your own country? Does football encourage nationalist feelings? If so, how? In the U.S., people have another standard name for European football. You know what? (hint: —cer).

    Benjamin is a Rastafarian. He wears his hair in a style known as *dread—–* (know the word?). Benjamin was born in Britain but comes from a Jamaican family, a very multicultural background.

    Benji has a critical view of many things in Great Britain and our world. He is very active speaking out for animal rights. A few years ago he refused to accept the OBE (Order of the British Empire). Few Britons have ever refused that big honour given by the Queen. But Benji did. You can find an interview with him on youtube where he talks about that and many things.

    If students could get interested in reading much more of this author, including some of his fiction (and books for kids), it would be a great step forward. Becoming an autonomous reader through self-selected *pleasure reading*. Students at mid-intermediate level can be encouraged to find an author they really like and to begin to read more and more of what (s)he’s written.

    A wonderful children’s book with poems by Benjamin is When I Grow Up (2011), thinking about what a child wants some day to become. His poem book Funky Chickens (1997), which contains *Football Mad*, also has many other poems students will like. *Danny Gone* (p. 65-6) is a really touching poem about a beloved cat that was murdered by someone out in the street—a simple poem with much emotion. There are also great illustrations in his books.

    Benji’s book Talking Turkey (1995) has many poems young and teen learners will also like, such as *Christmas Wise*. It begins: **All I want fe Christmas is world peace, / I don’t want loads a food that I really can’t eat. ** (p. 90). You can find these books on amazon in the UK and read a bit online.

  2. Helen Davies February 18, 2014 at 3:07 pm #

    Thanks for sharing this resource – I’m a big fan of this poet and I often use this poem with younger learners (in High school) and even the weaker pupils enjoy this.

    Dear White Fella

    My pupils took to his work immediately – especially when they found out about his childhood – dyslexia, dropped out of school, some time in prison – yet a world famous poet!

  3. Margit Szesztay February 19, 2014 at 2:07 pm #

    Thanks for the comment, Helen. … You must’ve inserted the wrong link by mistake.

    Here is the link for Dear White Fella:


  4. Bill February 24, 2014 at 9:17 pm #

    Zephaniah’s last novel is for teenagers, about the murder of a teacher as students look on: TEACHER’S DEAD (2007). It would be a good **teen novel** to get B1/2 level learners reading. The first-person narrator is a teenager who sees his teacher murdered in the schoolyard by two of his friends and starts his own quest to find out why. It takes him into the heart of the disturbed lives of people around him. There are not many novels about a teacher getting stabbed to death at school.

    His books are not expensive at amazon in the UK.

    ELT needs research on using Zephaniah’s texts in the classroom and in autonomous reading. How do learners respond? I don’t know if there is any published analysis. Good topic.

  5. Bill February 25, 2014 at 9:40 am #

    Here some criticism dealing with Zephaniah’s novels. By Prof. Sigrid Rieuwerts, who teaches at Uni Mainz in Germany: ‘We are Britain!’ Culture and Ethnicity in Benjamin Zephaniah’s Novels, in: Janice Bland and Christiane Luetge (eds.), Children’s Literature in Second Language Education (pp. 129-137). London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2012.

    The collection of essays edited by Bland and Luetge is very good, a book worth having but quite costly. There is a short book (48 pp.), Vic Parker, Writers Uncovered: Benjamin Zephaniah. Heinemann, 2007.

  6. Margit March 4, 2014 at 9:12 am #


    The title in my opinion can be interpreted in two ways. In one interpretation it can refer to the football player who scored the goal and became ‘mad’ by his success. To express his happiness he is doing mad things such as kissing the ground, or wriggles his butt, or shakes his fist at the queen. In the other interpretation it is the audience who go mad when their team scores a goal.
    The poet’s attitude to football is sarcastic. In his poem he ridicules the mad football player. This is achieved mostly by exaggerating how the football player expresses his feelings. He even uses funny expressions, for example, ‘wriggles his butt’. He enhances the effects by the way he recites the poem.
    The message of the poem is that feeling such euphoria is not normal, the football player goes out of his mind and the fans lose control when they cheer. The football player’s joy is not about the great sport achievement, but the amount of money that he will get as a result. This we get to know from the last question of the poem. The poet also suggests that there are far more important questions in life than football, for example poverty and sickness in the world. (Zsófi, BA student, Hungary)

  7. Bill Templer July 27, 2014 at 10:11 pm #

    In late April and May, 1988, Benjamin Zephaniah visited Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, then in the 5th month of the turmoil of the Intifida that had erupted in Dec. 1987 against the Israeli occupation and iron rule. On the West Bank, with mounting settlements by Israelis, and the ever difficult situation in Gaza. He published a short book (34 pp.) in 1990 — RASTA TIME IN PALESTINE (Liverpool: Shakti Publishing) — that offers his thoughts, impressions and personal experiences,, including some memorable vignettes, of his visit to Gaza then in the midst of war, Jerusalem, Jericho, the West Bank, Tel Aviv, Nazareth. Plus four basically quite political poems, and a no. of photos of the Intifada by Jez Coulson.

    This is Zephaniah commenting from direct experience on a major political confrontation that continues unresolved.

    This book is still very topical today, its message uncannily valid as the Ramadan bombardment against Gaza’s population during most of July 2014 (26 years later) is etched into historical memory with terrible bloodshed and destruction. And there are stirrings at the moment of what may become Intifada III.

    Excerpt from the Conclusion:

    “I went to Palestine – Israel with an open mind, Now I cannot deny it, ‘I support the struggle of the Palestinian people.’ I can’t help it, after seeing what these people have to live with and my own personal experiences. I left convinced that I should do everything I can do to help their cause, and the only thing I can do is write. […] This has happened not because politicians have invented it, it has happened because people will not tolerate invasion and occupation, war and starvation for an unlimited time. The Palestinians are just people, people drying and dying for ‘Peace Talks.’ I wanted to appeal to the black community because we have suffered and are still suffering from the acts of imperialistic states. […] The world should not let this land be subject to war any longer. […] There are many U.N. declarations that I could quote, but at the end of the day we shall have to refer to our hearts and not documents, so let’s change the world. Oppressed people of the world unite.

    From the poem “My God! Your God!”:

    […] You dream of a homeland, well others dream too,
    De fruit was forbidden and now you can’t chew,
    How can you do dis, in de pas it was you,
    Is dis in de name of your God?

    Does your God love children?
    Does your God love peace?
    Could your God bring justice to de Middle East?

    The poem “Mosquitoes in Jerusalem” is about killing “dat effin mosquito if it lands on me me once more,” but quickly becomes a poem about killing people, soldiers in Jerusalem and the whole struggle in Israel-Palestine. The poem “As A African” is about world politics and oppression, and early on has the lines: “As a African I went to find Palestine, / I got confused on de West Bank, / And as a African Palestine is important.” His fourth poem, “Know Your City” is an angry poem about being in Tel Aviv, with some lines: “Solar power lights it, / Native people fights it, America rights it. /And how you protect it,/ Your religion must enjoy it,/ Your city is a cesspit.”

    These could be read with the rest of the short book. How does it reflect very powerfully what is going on in Palestine today, as seen through the sensibility of a Rasta poet 26 years ago? How does it convey the specific consciousness of a Black poet born and raised in Birmingham coming directly in contact with the Palestinian struggle?

    Like Margit’s suggestion above, reflect on the book’s title, which is a half-rhyme. There is a lot of discussion about Rasta as a way of life, Rastafarian symbols in the course of the book. What do students know about Rasta? If not much, the book in a few pages provides a good introduction. But why does he mention it in connection with Israel-Palestine? The answer in the book is clear.

  8. Bill Templer July 27, 2014 at 10:15 pm #

    there’s a typo above, people drying and dying SHOULD BE people crying and dying

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