Book Review: An Illustrated Guide to Soccer & Spanish

Posted by on Oct 14, 2011 in Uncategorized | No Comments
Book Review: An Illustrated Guide to Soccer & Spanish

An Illustrated Guide to Soccer & Spanish
By Elliott Turner, Illustrated by Erik Ebeling
Published by Round Ball Media LLC, 2011
$5.99 (available here) ISBN: 978-0-615-48583-6

Although perhaps too much can be made of the so-called language of football, it’s true that the game possesses its fair share of linguistic quirks. The Football Lexicon, co-authored by occasional Two Unfortunates contributor John Leigh, did a marvellous job highlighting these and the overuse of the word “adjudged” as well as the currency of Hollywood Passes, playmakers and those mysterious channels displays the oddness of the sport’s idiom.

As far as other languages are concerned, the style has often been to import English terms wholesale. Thus, in French, we have le corner, le dribbleur and indeed, le football itself, but an exception to this is Spanish – a tongue which has seemingly developed its own approach in describing the round ball game. Elliott Turner of the leading US soccer website Futfanatico has therefore done us all a marvellous service by providing a snappy and entertaining introduction to the language of football Spanish-style.

The cadences of Spanish footballing terms are evocative – my initial fascination having been stoked by the use of the word apertura to describe the barmy “opening” championships that preface title races in various Latin American countries. Turner introduces us to more: thus, a heated debate is una polémica; a poacher of chances, un pescador and a scrambled goal, the marvellously muddly-sounding un churrigol. A defence splitting pass is un balón filtrado, the term for a left footed player is zurdo or zurda depending on sex and the word for defence is feminine by gender – perhaps tellingly, perhaps not.

The text is peppered with examples and the vast differences between the terms used whether the location is the Iberian Peninsula, South or Central America are enjoyable to note. Amongst those whose experiences are deployed to illustrate a point, John Arne Riise is unlucky to receive two mentions – first for his own goal against Chelsea in the Champions League semi-final and then for his committing the sin of a brasileñada while playing for Roma – this coinage used to represent the practice of overdoing it in defensive areas can be seen as a sly dig by grammarians towards those fancy Portuguese-speaking dans they share a continent with.

The book is available in eBook format only and downloadable for use on kindles and other tablet devices. Beautiful illustrations from Erik Ebeling accompany Turner’s impressive prose: at one point, Lionel Messi is described weaving his way through defenders “like redwoods rooted to the ground”.

The author’s Texan base is significant – in a fulsomely enthusiastic foreword from Run of Play’s Brian Phillips, the suggestion is made that the US stands to benefit from the creation of a blend of Spanish and English approaches, the result “a really deep and distinctive American soccer culture”. I would probably go further – football writing leaves us searching ever more keenly for new ways to describe things and the meshing of linguistic and cultural traditions can benefit us all.

Rob Langham
Rob Langham (pen name: Lanterne Rouge) is co-founder of the defiantly non-partisan football league blog, The Two Unfortunates, a website that occasionally strays into covering issues of wider importance. He's 47 and lives in Oxford while retaining his boyhood support of Reading FC. He tweets as @twounfortunates and has written for a number of websites and publications including The Football Attic, The Inside Left, When Saturday Comes, In Bed with Maradona, Futbolgrad and The Blizzard as well as being nominated for the Football Supporters' Federation Blogger of the Year Award in 2013.

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