A TEACHER at Morpeth’s high school found the perfect sportsman to help strengthen the entente cordiale between her students and a group of teenagers from southern France.
The exchange programme initiated by Olivia Robert has been a great success over the last few years, with students from King Edward VI School and Collège Joffre in Montpellier enjoying visits to each other’s countries.
And recently Miss Robert, originally from Montpellier, and staff at Newcastle United arranged for Toon player Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa to meet pupils from both schools at St James’ Park.
The defender is a real hero in Montpellier, having captained the city’s football club to league success in the 2011/12 season before making the move to the North East in January this year.
The Newcastle staff took some photos in the stadium with the students and Mapou, then moved them to the press room for a question and answer session in both languages.
Fellow teacher Gregory Bignot said: “It was a great day. The students were in awe at the chance to meet a professional footballer and it was fantastic to see him speak in both languages.”
Mapou had very positive words to say about the club and gave detail of the support he had received since starting at Newcastle. During the interview, students were also able to shake hands with the footballer and take photographs with him.
Towards the end, the French students sang Montpellier’s football crowd song La Paillade to him.
Maggy Robert, who accompanied the group from France, said that Mapou really seemed to enjoy meeting the students.
She added: “He was patient and down to earth and the students were very thankful for this opportunity.”
KEVI plans on running the French exchange every year for pupils to learn about the cultures in both countries.
Olivia Robert said: “Every year, we take students who are participating on the exchange to St James’ Park for a visit of the stadium.
“When I realised Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa had been transferred from Montpellier, I could not resist asking the club if he could meet us and talk about his experiences.
“I was so excited for the students and accompanying staff that it made my day. These opportunities give language learning a purpose and provide students with an unforgettable experience.
“As teachers, we consistently go out of our way to give our students the best possible opportunities. Mapou was ideal for the context of our exchange and we are extremely thankful to him and to Newcastle United Football Club for allowing us this chance.”
• KEVI has now been shortlisted in three separate categories for the national final of the Teen Tech Awards after Angus Kirk’s entry in the Journalism category impressed the panel.
He and the other successful students will present their ideas at The Royal Society in London on June 24.