Tag Archives: Drogbacite

Eight words and phrases that make most sense at the World Cup

Photo: Cristiano Oliveira via Flickr

Photo: Cristiano Oliveira via Flickr

Like most sports, soccer has its own technical language. It also has its own slang and neologisms. Here are eight of them.

1. A hora da onça beber agua. (“The jaguar drinks water.”)

This Portuguese phrase is a popular colloquialism in Brazil. It means the moment of truth. It’s often used in a soccer context.

2. Handbags

This is much-used by soccer players in Britain. It refers to a mini-fracas among opposing players, as distinct from full-on fisticuffs. It often involves shouting, pushing and possibly forehead-on-forehead contact—but not head-butting. David Beckham has been known to classify such a minor confrontation as “only handbags.”

3. Drogbacité

Named after Ivory Coast veteran star Didier Drogba. In 2006, Drogba intervened in Ivory Coast’s civil war, imploring both sides to lay down their arms and negotiate. The apparent success of his speech led to the expression drogbacité, which means a combination of good timing, speed and grace under pressure. See the video below for the drogbacité dance.

4. Catenaccio (“The chain”)

An ultra-organized, defensive method of playing soccer popularized in Italy in the 1960s. Don’t expect to see the Italians play that way at this World Cup: these days their strength is in attack, not defence.

5. The Beautiful Game

The origin of this phrase to describe soccer may be British. But it was popularized by Brazilian superstar Pele. And it sounds better in Portuguese: o jogo bonito.

6. Moñas (“Ringlets”)

In his book, Soccer in Sun and Shadow, Eduardo Galeano describes how the these elaborate figure-of-eight moves were once loved by crowds in his native Uruguay. During the 1930 World Cup, the the move intimated and confused teams from Europe. One Uruguayan player even reputedly fooled French journalists into believing that the Uruguayans learned to perform moñas by chasing chickens.

7. Life and Death

The best soccer related quote may be one attributed to Bill Shankly, former manager of English club Liverpool. “Football is not a matter of life and death,” he said. “It’s much more important than that.”

8. Soccer? Football?

Don’t get me started. Just read this.


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The language of the beautiful game

At the World Cup in South Africa, it’s not just Brazil vs Spain and Argentina vs Everybody Else. It’s Bafana Bafana vs Les Éléphants, soccer vs football, cleats vs boots and the coach vs the gaffer.

We kick off with a story on the new adidas ball and its globally correct corporate name:  Jabulani, which means celebrate in the isiZulu language. There is, famously, a new ball for every World Cup.  Each time, the new ball is presented — and heavily marketed — as a engineering masterpiece and an advance on the last one. Maybe: the new  certainly moves through the air faster than its predecessors (which include the horrifyingly management-speak name, the Teamgeist from 2006 ). On the Jabulani, there are eleven lines and eleven colors, representing South Africa’s eleven official langages. Those linguistically-inspired lines create slight ridges on the ball, which are  controversial. Many World Cup goalkeepers think the ridges will cause the ball to swerve in the air, making it more difficult for the goalies to position themselves for saves. Of course, if that’s the case, most people — apart from goalies — will be happy: more goals, more TV viewers, more money. Fancy that: linguistic diversity acting as a fig leaf for commercialism. And just think if South Africa had 111 official languages…

There are thousands of websites and blogs to choose between for  following the World Cup and the cultural hoopla surrounding it. For stuff you won’t see anywhere else I recommend Davy Lane’s one-man South African show.  It’s full of smart, funny, non-touristy, interviews with locals. Davy also sports a not-so-mild obsession with Uruguay and its colors. Also, check out my colleague Jeb Sharp’s latest podcast on soccer and French colonialism.

Next in the podcast, a story on the race to rename streets in South African cities. The old names — usually in Afrikaans or English — are often associated with the apartheid era. As noted in previous podcast/blog posts here and here, naming and renaming places is a way of  shaping history, of controlling how it is told.

Next, we focus on a few words rooted in South Africa’s eleven official languages that may go global after this tournament. One already has: vuvuzela, even if most non-South Africans aren’t crazy about the sound this plastic horn makes.  One other word from the African continent that’s gone global, at least in the francophone world: Drogbacité. This means a spirit of reconciliation and humility, named after Ivory Coast superstar –and Africa’s finest player Didier Drogba. Three years ago, Drogba used his celebratory status to help jump-start peace talks between warring factions in Ivory Coast. Quite how central a role Drogba played is up for discussion, but suffice to say, the expression Drogbacité stuck.

Finally, a meditation on a US-English confrontation off the soccer field (or football pitch: take your pick). It is the linguistic battle over soccer/football terminology. It speaks to the nature of the often awkward, not-so-special relationship between England and the United States. England is represented here by New York-based writer Luke Dempsey; the US by broadcaster and former national team goalkeeper Shep Messing.

Listen in iTunes or here.

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized