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February 2002

World Cup Brings Chances to Learn about Other Countries

The 2002 FIFA World Cup soccer tournament will take place in Japan in June, and you can bet the kids here are excited about it. The World Cup is held every four years in a different country and is watched by billions of people all over the world. For the first time in history the tournament will be held in Asia, and this is also the first time that two countries, Japan and South Korea, have co-hosted the event.

In places like Gifu and Saitama the kids are learning with their stomachs about the countries of the teams visiting their cities. That is because their regular school lunches are being replaced once a month by foods from those countries. In the city of Saitama alone, 37 elementary and middle schools had started offering such meals as of the end of January.

For example, on January 28 at Yada Elementary School kids enjoyed a delicious Italian meal of boiled potatoes smothered in tomatoes, an Italian salad, and panacotta (an Italian cream dish) for dessert. Schools are hoping that by eating the foods of the countries the students will get interested in and cheer for the teams too.

In another program, schools in and around the village of Rifu, in Miyagi Prefecture, the city of Kashima, and other places will choose a country to cheer for from among the teams that will play nearby. Called the "One School, One Country" program, it was also done at the Winter Olympics in 1998, which were held in Nagano, Japan. And in the city of Matsumoto, which will host the training camp of the Paraguay team, there are plans for a "one school, one player" scheme.

Under the "one school, one country" program, schools in Fukuroi City, for instance, chose a team from the four countries that will be playing in their city - Russia, Germany, Belgium, and Cameroon. Then, students from each school went to the embassy of their respective team to find out more about those countries.

On January 27 students from Shunan Junior High School enjoyed visiting the Cameroon embassy. They took gifts and enthusiastically asked the ambassador questions about Cameroon and its culture. On discovering that French is the language spoken in Cameroon, one of the students vowed to study the language more.

Each of the four classes in each grade at Fukuroi Kita Elementary School chose a different team to cheer for in their own version of "one school, one country" called "one class, one country." In addition, fourth graders showed their spirit by making a 1.5-meter-diameter papier-mache globe with all of the participating countries marked on it.

Besides cheering for the teams and learning about the visitors to their cities, children at schools also got together and thought up ways they could make the visitors feel more welcome. If the kids can do this then the tournament this year will truly be a success.

Photos: (Top) Fukuroi Kita Elementary School's giant globe (Fukuroi City); (Middle) Lunch at Yada Elementary School (Yada Elementary School); (Bottom) Learning French and Dutch, the languages of Belgium (Fukuroi City).