Football in the Steiner School

World Cup fever didn’t last long in our house this time as a result of England’s disappointing performance, but as a postscript to the event, here is some detail on why football is considered too “non-Steiner” to be encouraged in the schools.

As mentioned in a comment here once, there is some dispute in Steiner circles about exactly how bad football is as a sport, and whether it should be allowed in Steiner schools. Some of Steiner’s remarks have been interpreted as critical of football ; taking people away from the spiritual and towards the physical. “The etheric body moves away from the physical and man becomes just a creature of the earth.”

Recently a German journal on Steiner education “The Art of Education” published an item by an anthroposophical doctor on the subject, mentioning that time and again the question of why football is not allowed comes up at parents evenings and in private conversations. During the World Cup the questions become even more frequent.

The article mentions the criticisms of unruly behaviour of the crowd and potential for injury and aggression but says these could equally be applied to other sports which are tolerated such as handball and hockey, so the reason given is based on the idea that football is not the kind of activity Steiner schools want to encourage because it does not conform to the “laws of human development” as specified in anthroposophy.

Once again the importance of “uprightness” (as mentioned in a previous post) is stressed and it is remarked;

“The football player goes through a training course, which reverses the development of Evolution: The foot will again become the clever, universal, intelligent usable limb, while the hands are condemned to complete inaction.”

This article from in 2006 analyses all the reasons why there has been an “unspoken but rigorous ban on football in Steiner schools”., and puts them into 7 categories, here is a summary;

1 Football incites violence

Agression and violence are tolerated and the language of war is used (weapons, attacking, spearheading etc) hooliganism and the number of deaths at stadiums. A macho culture (although women also play football).

2 Using feet instead of hands (see uprightness)

The arms and hands become useless and specifically human traits are “turned off”.

3 Prehistoric tribal instincts

The waving of flags, the “war songs” the tribal customs of each team.

4 Cultic tradition

In the middle ages the ball was originally the sun and players tried to keep it in the air.

The kick is a gesture of contempt.

5 Substitute for religion

Millions of fans attend football matches, but churches are almost empty.

6 Racism

Fuels the fire of national pride– anthems

On the other hand, football can also be a bridge between countries and peoples

7 Spiritual reasons

A connection is made between the occult meaning of the “pyramid shape” and the structure of a football team .

But the physical body is taken away from etheric body in football. (This is bad)

In 1926 a Steiner school curriculum had the following passage;

“The game of football is prohibited to the students on school property; it damages the physical, mental and spiritual development in the school years”

At the end of the article there is an acknowledgement that in England people love their sport, and Steiner school children should not be seen as strangers in their own country.

“Certainly football is not hockey or cricket, but the question should be asked if, despite all the justified objections,  a more easygoing, non-dogmatic attitude would not be more appropriate and contemporary. “

One reason the student Austinwho in a comment in the student room was critical of his Steiner education was that he was denied participation in football.

“…I was prepared, no matter what my academic potential, to work everyday to make it in football. All ambition was however, squashed out of me and what is more, for a school that sells itself as making happier students, surely taking away something that makes so many of the students so much happier is plainly ridiculous.”

Some Steiner schools in the UK may tolerate football, but reading around the subject suggests it is with reluctance, and a feeling that it is not something to be encouraged. The reasons given are many and varied, but the underlying concern is that it does not fit with Steiner’s view that physical activity draws people away from the spiritual and towards the material – something to be avoided if at all possible.



  1. Jim

    Oh no. Please stop Helen! I’ve always hated football. And all other sports. Please don’t make me agree with Steiner again.

    • Helen

      Thought you might say that!
      I am no fan myself but to see it as bad because you use your legs and feet…?? It’s the same with dancing I suppose – especially Irish dancing where the arms are kept straight down and the feet do amazing work.

      • Helen

        Actually it’s funny – the way Irish dancers don’t use their arms was originally because it was seen as sinful to do so – but in Steiner belief it is sinful not to. The faithful would really rather we just sit in a church pew and meditate in our free time.

        • Lyra

          An interesting snippet from The Educational Tasks of the Steiner Waldorf Curriculum, (2000), page 178
          The Movement Curriculum – Games, Gymnastics and Sport
          Class 7 General Aspects and Aims:

          “One of the reasons teams sports are not introduced earlier in the curriculum
          is the danger of this exact conception of spatial relationships may inhibit the
          imagination. If the pupils at this age do not have a strongly established sense of
          imagination or inner picturing ability, they can be overwhelmed by the emotional forces which are awakening at them at this stage of puberty.”

          Of course ‘strongly established sense of imagination’ and ‘inner picturing ability’ is Steiner doublespeak for clairvoyance.

          The book is edited by Tobias Richter and Martyn Rawson with contributions from Trevor Mepham, John Burnett and Christoper Clouder – all First Class members of the School of Spiritual Science.

  2. Helen

    Thanks Lyra.
    We have to assume that the DfE either didn’t read this curriculum when they were deciding about whether to allow Steiner free schools, or they didn’t understand what they were reading. Either way, they erred badly.

Any thoughts?

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