With no football being played and large parts of the world on lockdown, lots of people seem to have plenty of time on their hands at the moment. Why not put it to good use by learning a new language, or at least some key phrases used to describe Chelsea players in their homelands?
Every country has it’s own quirky football idioms and unusual turns of phrase, including those which have produced some of the current Blues stars. So, at a time when we would be looking abroad for our football during an international break in the ordinary scheme of things, before the spread of coronavirus pressed pause on the sporting calendar, how would you discuss N’Golo Kante’s endless reserves of stamina on the Champs Elysees or Willian’s free-kicks on Copacabana Beach?
Jorginho and Emerson may have been born in Brazil, but they are now fully fledged Italian citizens and represent their second home on the international stage. Italy has a long tradition of calling up the returned descendants of immigrants who left the peninsula, especially from South America, and even have a special word for them, labelling them ‘oriundi’.
Jorginho’s particular talents have always been heavily appreciated by Italians, who have something of a soft spot for a playmaker who controls the tempo of the game from deep. They are often described as a ‘regista’, the same word used for a director in the cinema or theatre worlds. However, our number five’s habit of sticking deep and central to help out defensively and plug holes could also see him described as the ‘collante’, which literally translates as the glue.
Long known as the country which embodies flair on the football pitch more than any other, it is no surprise that some of that flamboyancy has found its way into the language they use to describe the sport. In the case of an advanced creative player like Willian, he would be called the ‘armador’. There are contrasting claims as to where that phrase comes from. It literally means a ship owner, and some believe it originated from a shipwright or constructor, while some also claim it was imported from the corresponding position in basketball.
Similarly, when taking on defenders he has a habit of causing them to be ‘entortar’ (twisted or warped) and skilful players capable of beating their man are known as a ‘malandro’ – rascal. His potency from free-kicks is also a rich source of Brazilian phrases. When finding the top corner you would say it went ‘onde a coruja dorme’ (where the owl sleeps) and hit the net, or the ‘roseira’ (rose bush). If he struck the ball especially powerfully it would be described as flying like a ‘pombo sem asas’ (pigeon without wings) and his best would be a ‘gol de placa’ (plaque goal) in reference to one of Pele’s greatest goals, which was commemorated with a plaque at the Maracana Stadium where it was scored.
Between N’Golo Kante, Olivier Giroud and Kurt Zouma there are plenty of French phrases to pick from. Kante in particular has come to symbolise a popular saying in his homeland to describe a midfielder who seems to spend the game in perpetual motion, labelling them ‘trois poumons’, suggesting the reason for their endless reserves of stamina is down to possession of three lungs. It came to particular attention during the last World Cup, when his humble dismissing of the claim in an interview prompted his friend and international team-mate Paul Pogba to counter that Kante must actually have at least 15 lungs, given his work rate.
Elsewhere, Giroud is the ‘pivote’, rather familiarly meaning the pivot, referencing the centre-forward becoming the focal point the rest of the attackers play off. The spectacular airborne volleys he is fond of are known as a ‘Papinnade’ in homage to the legendary French striker Jean-Pierre Papin, who just happened to be Olivier’s childhood hero, and the back-heeled volley which famously won Giroud the Puskas Award for the world’s best goal in 2017 is known as an ‘aile de pigeon’ – a pigeon’s wing.
Further back, Zouma’s man-marking talents make him a ‘garde du corps’ (bodyguard), while strong, physical centre-backs are sometimes called the ‘cle de vout’, or keystone. Additionally, across the border in the French-speaking parts of Belgium, they seem fond of card games when it comes to players like Michy Batshuayi who have a habit of scoring important goals off the bench, calling them the self-explanatory ‘joker’ or ‘as dans le manche’ (ace in the sleeve).
As a country with such a long and proud footballing history, no wonder Germany appreciates players who remind them of that glorious past. The kind of fully committed tackle you might see from Antonio Rudiger is especially popular, and known as a ‘gedachtnisgratsche’ – literally, memory tackle – for recalling images of a previous era of the game. Those kind of challenges might also see him affectionately labelled ‘der zerstorer’, or the destroyer, but if he gets it wrong it could result in him receiving an ‘arschkarte’, a colourful and surprisingly humorous reference to a certain area of the referee’s anatomy due to the red card traditionally being pulled from the official’s back pocket.