14 Jun 2018

The World Cup and Unity

This summer’s most anticipated football tournament kicks off today with the FIFA World Cup in Russia. As any England supporter knows, the World Cup can be a time of ups and downs, although its ability to bring the country and the world together is a wonderful thing.

This year we’ve coached an international group of under 18 footballers in different UK football clubs in off-the-pitch skills such as first impressions and body language. Today we’re focusing on the professionals. Taking inspiration from our British and International Business Etiquette course, let’s take a  look at how the England players can present themselves to teams from across the globe away from the football field.

Imagining that England win their group and progress through the later rounds (one can but dream!), we have put together the following fantasy matches where a little cultural know-how can go a long way.


Quarter Finals: Japan

With refined courtesy, a strict hierarchy and elaborate rituals at the centre of Japanese culture, meeting and greeting a team of Japanese players is a potential minefield for the uninitiated. Here are some tips which would ensure the England players’ first encounter is a win:

  • When meeting someone for the first time, you can expect to be met with a handshake and a slight bow. Make sure you smile and radiate positivity, being careful not to make too much eye contact as this could be mistaken for aggression.
  • Bowing happens constantly, either as a greeting, as an apology or to say thanks. Men bow with arms straight, palms flat and touching their legs. You may find that you shake hands by way of meeting but you should also bow a little at the same time.
  • Gifts are very important to the Japanese. Gift-giving is based on giri - the sense of reciprocity and duty owed by one citizen to another. Highly coveted items include single malt whiskies and fine marmalade - in fact anything British! Always give gifts when leaving a social engagement and make sure to give with both hands as a sign of respect.

Semi Finals: Saudi Arabia

The people of the Middle East pride themselves on their hospitality and they greet friends and strangers with polite formalities. These three pieces of advice are unbeatable for any social interactions with the Saudi Arabian team.

  • When shaking hands, always use your right. In fact, always use your right hand for eating, making gestures and presenting gifts. 
  • Before putting your shoes on you should be careful not to expose the soles of your feet to your opponents, this is a grave insult. As a general rule, guests should remove their shoes before entering someone’s home.
  • At the dinner table, never point to someone across from you as it considered rude.


Final: Russia

One thing for players to bear in mind when meeting the Russian team is that the Russian Federation is vast and has different cultures within it, so it is important to be mindful of this when meeting your hosts:

  • Bring your firmest handshake when you’re meeting Russians and prepare for a bone-crushing one in return. It is bad luck to shake hands across a threshold, so make sure not to embark on greeting someone as soon as they open the door to you.
  • Russians are very hospitable and when it comes to dining out, you can expect table manners to be the same as in the UK. When a bottle of vodka is opened in celebration of friendship, you should raise a glass during the toast, even if you don’t drink.
  • Always check the dress code in advance of a meal as it can vary wildly from dinner jackets to jeans. Should you be dining at someone’s home, always ensure to remove your shoes.

Watch a video of the training programme we taught for Reading FC.


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