Saturday, 8 February 2014

The Language of Football

The Beautiful Game is riddled with countless clichés. It is about time they were kicked into touch – and stayed there

1. The study of language in relation to social factors, including differences of regional class, and occupational dialect, gender differences, and bilingualism.

Every single day, in every walk of life, people create and are subject to the most fluid, unique and powerful code that connects literally everything between one another. Such a constant utensil can only be one thing: language. Without language, this particular combination of vowels and consonants and punctuation marks which you are currently reading would be indecipherable, and thus the wonder and power of written information, Literature and many forms of communication through words and written text would not exist.
Furthermore, there would absolutely be no football magazines like The Football Pink and there would be no Twitter to exchange opinions and blogs on the weekend's football. A monstrous void of articles and books on the world's most favoured sport would exist and therefore there would be limited means of expressing the emotions, tales, conspiracies and facts of what routinely captivates billions of people. Billions of people, that is, who recall the narratives and predict the outcomes of football on a daily, hourly, minute-by-minute basis using language which, due to a number of factors, falls into the broad vocabulary that is associated with 'the beautiful game' and is used frequently in today's football-mad world.

An element, or rather a section, of football's unique language which many a reader will familiarise with is that from on the pitch; from the Champions League Final to the hangover-ridden Sunday league matches. Even the memorable childhood 'kick-abouts' against a fence or upon a well-worn field, with a ragged ball in a worse state than British football's youth system, would have contained it; wherever the ball goes, the vocabulary and jargon follows, being passed down from generation to generation. The most recognisable phrases are the most used, directly from the field of play itself: for example, "man on!", "watch the short corner!", "time!", "[team colour]'s ball!" and "all day!", all bundled together with the excessive use of "lads" or "boys" (naturally, I cannot comment from the female point of view, but I imagine the alternative to be "girls") and numerous expletives (normally aimed at the referee) creates the broad, instantly recognisable and rather loud basis for the language of football from the perspective of playing it and being in its immediate environment.
As is mentioned in the previous paragraph, one element in the DNA of football's language is the good old-fashioned swear-word; used daily on Twitter by the masses who are evidently not be followed by their mothers, by the aged playing generation on five-a-side pitches and by Newcastle manager Alan Pardew and Blackpool manager Paul Ince (both are now absolutely terrible role models), who spend their time dishing out the shocking c-word to opposition managers and match officials more frequently than Michael Owen says "you know" during the average BT Sport commentary. This form of extreme, passion-fuelled, controversial expression of emotion may make parents of small children and BBC pundits alike recoil in horror and raise their greying eyebrows in a who-could-do-such-a-thing manner, however the fact remains: swearing plays an important part in the genetics of football's language, and it is destined to continue to do so. It may be interpreted as a communal, caveman form of bondage and unity. It could be viewed as an essential release of tension or emotion by the 'swearer'. Whatever integral part swearing might play in the sport, it will always be the catalyst of much discussion and debate. Ultimately, however, nobody will be able to do a f***ing thing about it.
The above is an extract from my article The Language of Football, which features in the fantastic, diverse and unconventional third edition of The Football Pink. Sky Sports pundit and author Guillem Balague features alongside the regular writers in the best edition to date.
The Football Pink is available on Amazon Kindle here:
For the first time, The Football Pink is also available in print, here:
Alex Leonard

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