Women’s World Cup 2023: the language of football

Written on 20 July, 2023

Fight against their prejudice. Fight against the lack of support. Fight against it all — the boys, the people who say you can’t.” – Marta Vieira da Silva

As the Women’s World Cup 2023 kicks off in Auckland, here at Surrey Translation Bureau (STB) we thought we would cast our linguistic eye over what Pelé referred to in his native Portuguese as ‘o jogo bonito’, or ‘the beautiful game’.

Football, footy, footer, or soccer: the beautiful language of football

Football, footy, footer, or soccer – as our friends across the pond insist on calling it – is the world’s most popular spectator sport, and one which transcends language barriers the world over. Although many of the players have a good grasp of the English language, one can only wonder what those still learning the ropes must make of some of the unusual phrases thrown around in the football world. From favourite clichés such as ‘sick as a parrot’ or ‘it’s a game of two halves’ to more mystifying examples (‘squeaky bum time’ anyone?) the footballing lexicon is nothing if not rich.

 

football

 

This is not merely a one-way process however, and perhaps it speaks volumes about our continental neighbours’ more technical approach to the game that many foreign terms have made their way into common usage in English. From the Italians’ defensive catenaccio (literally ‘door bolt’) style, to Spain’s hugely successful short-passing style tiki-taka, through to Holland’s game-changing totaalvoetbal, the sport is awash with loanwords. Indeed, one recent import to the English game, Liverpool’s charismatic German manager Jürgen Klopp, even brought his own trademark term with him, in the form of Gegenpressing, roughly translating as ‘counter-pressing’. He even provided a ready-made translation for this high-energy style, presumably to aid the monolingual English fan’s understanding: ‘heavy metal football’.

 

Playing football

 

Herr Klopp is, of course, not alone in his mastery of the language; in fact, it is not uncommon to hear German fans chanting in English at matches. Much like their Liverpool counterparts, fans of Borussia Dortmund can be heard singing Gerry and the Pacemakers’ ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ before home games. England fans will also cringe when recalling how the German fans sang The Lightening Seeds’ anthem ‘Three Lions’ having knocked them out of the European Championships on their own soil in 1996. Pure Schadenfreude. Perhaps, then, languages are simply another area where, in the famous words of Gary Lineker, “… at the end, the Germans win.”?

The languages of the World Cup 2023

Did you know? FIFA translates three million words per language, per year.

With countries around the globe taking part in the Women’s World Cup 2023, here’s a quick look at the most spoken languages of the tournament.

English 11 teams
Spanish 5 teams
French 3 teams

Interesting facts about some of the languages of the World Cup 2023

English: The term ‘soccer’, popularly used in the USA and Canada, has a very British origin. In the 1880s, students from the University of Oxford decided to differentiate between rugby football and association football by calling them ‘rugger’ and ‘assoccer’ (short for association football) respectively. It was only in the 20th century that the British started to use ‘football’ as the preferred term.

French: Football’s international governing body, Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) has a French name, having been founded in Paris in 1904 by representatives of football associations from seven countries.

Spanish: Spanish was declared an official language of FIFA in 1946, seen primarily as a result of efforts by CONMEBOL (South American Football Confederation).

Arabic: The Arabic word for football is koora, derived from another Arabic word kura which translates as ball.

German: One of the oldest pieces of football slang in German is Gurkentruppe, literally a gherkin troop, and is used to refer to a bad team.

Dutch: In Dutch, the football team is called voetbalelftal. The literal meaning is ‘football eleven-count’. It is normally shortened to elftal.

Portuguese: Animals feature highly in some of the popular Brazilian Portuguese phrases relating to football. Hora da onça beber aqua (the jaguar drinks the water), um pomba sem asas (a pigeon without wings) and onde a coruga dorme (where the owl sleeps) are just few of the examples!

At STB, we offer translation services in all these official languages and more. We see translation as our very own beautiful game, so why not let us take care of your translation needs – we’re sure you’ll be ‘over the moon’ with our service!

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