Football (soccer) is the most popular sport on the planet with an estimated 4,000 professional teams worldwide and countless semi-pro and amateur sides too. According to FIFA, an incredible 265 million players are actively involved in the sport. And naturally, with so many nations, leagues, teams and players taking part, there are hundreds of languages being spoken across all the football pitches around the world!
So how do footballers communicate with each other? As the professional leagues become even more globalised with multiple nationalities starring in every squad, how can players effectively get their point across to try and win the game?
A shared language
Football is an almost unique sport in that so many nationalities come together to form one squad, many of which won’t be native to the country in which the team is based.
Because of this, football has a set of predominant shared languages, including:
In the Premier League alone, there are almost as many non-native English speakers as native ones! Even so, English is still heavily used across the world as the primary language of the beautiful game… closely followed by Spanish and French.
In most major leagues it’s expected that new international players will need to learn the native tongue. Many international players who join English leagues, for example, will already have some basic English ability through schooling. The same is less true for English players who travel abroad though, with the likes of Gareth Bale taking an entire season to start to pick up basic Spanish-speaking skills.
When there is a language barrier, translators or multi-lingual squadmates are often used… including for managers in the case of Marco Bielsa at Leeds whose translator became a celebrity in their own right!
Even when language is a barrier for some players, there are some common phrases that are commonly heard on any football pitch and are universally understood – so much so that they should be enough to get you through a few games whilst your language skills develop!
Some of the most popular phrases that are readily known across the world include:
- Through (for a through ball)
- Clear it
- Push up
- Ref / referee
- Sub / substituted
These sayings will be known almost universally in one of the main spoken languages of the game, including French, Spanish and particularly, English.
Hand signals and gestures
Did you know that only 45% of all communications between people are verbal? The majority of the ways we ‘converse’ with each other, either consciously or not, is through our posture, gestures, facial cues and signals.
This is extremely useful for footballers trying to get messages to one another from across a pitch amid the din of a lively stadium!
There are a raft of popular signals and gestures used across the footballing world that almost anyone would understand straight away, including:
- Raised hand in the air: pass to me
- Both arms outstretched in front: I’m open
- Running whilst pointing: pass the ball there (such as for a through ball)
- Raised hands whilst taking a corner: ‘secret’ signal where the corner taker is aiming to put the ball
- Imaginary card: book the opposing player
- Arms outstretched: Why didn’t you pass / that was never offside!
There are, of course, a range of more fruity signals reserved for opponents and match officials which we’ve neglected to include in this article!
Speak the language of the beautiful game
Whilst shared phrases and gestures are important, they’re no substitute for truly understanding your teammates, managers and coaches – especially as the modern game is growing increasingly complicated in terms of tactics and in-game management.
If you’re looking to improve your English speaking ability through football, then you’re absolutely in the right place!
At HATRIQA, we offer a range of world-class resources to help both rising stars and some of the world’s greats to learn English… FAST.
Get started by taking our free online English Level Test right here.