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Fabio Capello has been in charge of England for three years yet he feels he only needs 100 words to get his message across. Therefore, this week’s main report wonders whether a football manager needs to be able to speak the language of his or her players. There is a transcript below, while explanations of key vocabulary (in bold) can be found at the foot of the post, while other key phrases (in blue) also have meanings explained.
Fabio Capello is never far away from the limelight or indeed controversy. This week he has been in the news again after it was revealed that he feels that he only needs 100 words or so to communicate with the England players. Now, that of course, may be a reflection of the England players but as English language teachers interested in football we wondered if we could help with Fabio’s lack of a footballing lexicon.
A Universal Language?
Football, of course is a universal language, so, for instance, the word goal is the same in Italian as it is in English, while penalty is pretty much understood by everyone. But what about phrases such as referee (in Italian arbitro), offside (fuorigioco), a corner (bandierina) or a chip shot (il cucchiaio) – oh, who am I kidding I cannot speak Italian – which means shaped like a spoon for those who do. As for positions on the pitch, well the player between the posts is clearly the one who stops the shots though he or she is not known as the stopper – that’s another position, while the trequartista (Think Pirlo, Totti or Baggio) is an integral position in Italian football that does not really have a direct translation in English (probably because a player of that calibre has never really been produced in this country). Now if this football jargon is tricky enough imagine what football cliches and expressions must be like for Don Fabio? We have already noted in a previous podcast that attempting to directly translate these phrases is a potential minefield so what is he to do – apart from subscribe to a football podcast especially geared toward English language learners, that is?
5 More Words and Phrases for Capello
More to the point, what football language – and we are not counting ‘colourful language’ here – does Capello need to learn in order to be really able to communicate with his players? Let us know what words and phrases you think would be useful for the Italian to truly get his message across to his squad. Let’s see if we can come up with 100 more words or phrases for Capello to survive in English football. Here are 5 to start with:
1. You’re dropped
This basically means you are not playing on this team anymore. Particularly useful for when players constantly give possession away (see, for example, Steven Gerrard); misbehave off the pitch (for example, Ashley Cole, John Terry and Wayne Rooney); or they have been around too long without justifying their place (Hello Frank Lampard) or are simply not good enough (Sorry Peter Crouch).
2. To be fair
Nothing to do with justice or fairness but simply a phrase that allows the person being interviewed a chance to a) say something and b) have time to think of something else. There is also an alternative version of this phrase: In all fairness; while in the 1970s and 80s I remember players using the expression ‘obviously‘. Brilliantly vacuous.
3. With all due respect
Now this is similar to ‘in all fairness’ in that it comes at the beginning of a sentence and allows the speaker a chance to gather his/her thoughts, but it usually contains little or no respect for an opponent. So, for example, ‘with all due respect to San Marino, we should be beating teams at this level’, i.e. San Marino are rubbish and we will win.
This means to kick the ball really hard and high in an aimless fashion. This word, used as a noun or more commonly as a verb is probably already on Capello’s 100 list after watching so many matches in the Premier League – maybe this is the reason why he always leaves the games so early? Maybe he can tell certain players in his squad to stop hoofing the ball forward as if they were playing in a prehistoric time (Choose here almost any England defender).
This is the small piece of cloth that is tied around a player’s arm to show that this player is the captain of the team. Not really an important word to know unless, of course, you are the manager of England where the media’s fixation with this tiny piece of material and whose arm it should be affixed to. Fabio could have avoided all controversy by simply stating that his team consisted of 11 captains. But enough of the cliches.
Okay, there are five phrases to help Capello become more accustomed to the game in England, can we find another 95 before the season is out? Probably not but let us know some English football terminology that Fabio Capello should learn.
limelight: To be in the news
lexicon: Language (list)
the stopper: Big, strong central defender
integral: Basic, fundamental and very important
jargon: specific terminology or language
is a potential minefield: A real danger, possibly problematic
‘colourful language’: Swearing, rude language
vacuous: Empty, having no meaning at all
In all fairness: This actually means nothing at all but is a ‘filler’ in a sentence (see, ‘well’)