Although the Finnish national team has once again missed out on the FIFA World Cup, which is underway in Qatar, armchair supporters shouldn’t miss the competition under any circumstances. The World Cup is the world’s biggest sporting event, offering both a footballing and linguistic spectacle.
In its own way, football is the world’s most understood language. A football is round for everyone, and the game brings people together regardless of nationality, skin colour or sexual orientation. If you can play football, you will get by anywhere in the world.
You’ll do even better and get inside the culture if you understand football slang in the local language. In Spanish, dar un baño literally means “to give someone a bath”, but in football it means to totally destroy the opposition. In German, Schwalbe is the name for a small bird, a swallow or martin, but on the field of play Schwalbes win free-kicks and penalties by taking a dive on purpose.
If you’re discussing the previous evening’s match with your English-speaking colleague, make an impression by using expert terms. A team that decides to protect its lead by defending deeply will park the bus. A player who has the ball passed through his legs is nutmegged. And if the attacking team narrowly misses by hitting either of the posts or the crossbar, they hit the woodwork.
If you want to be really on the ball, enrich your language with expressions borrowed from football. In addition to kick-off and playing in a league of their own (omassa sarjassaan pelaaminen), which have both made their way into the Finnish language, you can also insert into any English conversation football-related words and phrases such as game-changing (mullistava), know the score (tuntea faktat) or take sides (olla puolueellinen).
The World Cup takes place over 29 days and will involve 64 matches. The final on 18 December will most likely be followed by a billion fans around the world and will be played at the Lusail Iconic Stadium, where 80,000 supporters will do the Mexican Wave (la-Ola-Welle).
On the internet, you can find all manner of football glossaries, which will help you read about your favourite team’s stars also in their own language. If you speak one of the big football languages and you’re looking for the best big match experience, I recommend listening to the match commentary on internet radio in your team’s language. If your team scores, it could be that you only hear GOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAL!