Tag Archives: football

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.


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A crowdsourced crowd is cool, but nothing beats a sports spectators

There’s an off-the-field contest taking place this season among US football fans: to be the loudest.

On Sept. 15, Seattle Seahawks fans roared their way to a world record for the loudest outdoor stadium crowd. Less than a month later, fans of the Kansas City Chiefs screamed six decibels louder. A week later, Clemson fans tried but failed to break the record.

The “12th man” is a staple of home-field advantage. But it’s not just the home players who get a lift — sports history is full of moments when a hostile crowd lifts the road team.

Sports consumers need to hear it too: the more crucial the contest, the louder the crowd must be. And you can only really get a sense of just how much we all crave that sound when it’s not there.

Last May, at the climax of the Swiss soccer season, two teams with a fierce rivalry, Grasshoppers and FC Zurich, played each other. Swiss TV station SRF broadcast the highlights, complete with the usual crowd “oohs,” “aahs” and less printable utterances. There was just one problem: for the first ten minutes of the match, the crowd wasn’t actually there. The fans of both teams were staging a protest outside the stadium. They only went inside later in the game.

The TV station said they wanted to make the show “as attractive as possible.” So they added fake crowd sounds — and later apologized. But you can see where they were coming from. What kind of enjoyment is there in watching a big game, even on TV, in silence — with virtually no one watching?

Usually when games are played behind closed doors, it’s a punishment, often for hooliganism. But it’s rare that more than one or two teams are punished. In Tunisia, nearly all professional soccer matches are played in empty stadiums. The country is still in post-revolutionary turmoil and authorities fear large gatherings could quickly turn nasty.

That’s what led advertizing agency Ogilvy and Mather to create not exactly a fake crowd, but not a real one either.

“We created an app that connected mobile phones and the Internet to big loud speakers,” says Ogilvy’s Nicholas Courant. “There were 40 speakers inside the stadium.”

Recordings of the fans’ chants were blasted out of the speakers in the stadium belonging to Tunisian first division team Hamman Lif. Fans watching games on TV could use the app to show their appreciation of their team.

“The users just had to tap on sound icons,” says Courant. “A simple tap was instantly transformed into powerful support, because the more you tapped on the icon, the louder it was in the stadium.”

It got really loud for Hamman Lif’s crunch game of the season. Some 93,000 fans used the app during that match — their finger taps roaring their team onto victory. The conventional fan capacity of the stadium is just 12,000.

There’s no question this crowd-sourcing of crowds has provided a valuable service in a country where real crowds are verboten. But the app, called The 12th Man, has its limits. It doesn’t have an icon for booing or heckling. And as much as the players may have enjoyed the noise, it was coming out of big boxes. You can’t beat a real crowd.

Double gold medal winner Mo Farah credits the crowd at the 2012 Olympics with his wins — especially the second one, the 5,000 meters. The crowd, he says, was “just amazing.” They gave him “that extra gear. They gave me that lift.”


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