Should Football be considered a language?

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This is a piece written by a dear friend and great coach Aitor Fuentes.

Originally from Catalunya, Spain and with a great background as a skilled language teacher Aitor made the move to the US full time in 2015 to pursue a different kind of teaching.. football coaching.
Since the summer of 2015, Aitor has established himself as a key component of the Buffalo soccer organisation, GPS-NY in Western New York and is now gearing up to start his third season at the club.

Here he explores the idea through his unique perspective whether or not football should in fact be considered a language in its own right.


Should football be considered a language?

Football. Everyone around me, ever since I was born and all the way until I was twenty two, would call the greatest and more popular sport around the world “football”. Of course, they would spell it fútbol, as this is how we spell it in on of the football Meccas in the Mediterranean, Spain.

Fútbol, that made no sense to me when I was little. It is not a Spanish word; yet everyone uses it in Spain. Some clubs around the country would not surrender to the English transformed word and stick to the classic balompié, like Real Betis Balompié, the green and white team from Sevilla. What would make some people fall for one or the other? I was not able to figure it out, but since all my friends called it fútbol, so did I.

It was not until when I was a bit older, when I started taking English in primary school, that I realized that balompié and football are actually the very exact same word: they share the same two words within it, they both name the same two objects -a foot and a ball-, and they both became one single word. Okay, I got it, this makes perfect sense, I thought back then when I saw the sentence “The kids play football”, in my 4th grade English book.. You use your foot, or pie, to kick a ball, a balón. As the vast majority of words we use, they name the object we refer to with logic and rationality, or at least the very root of the word, regardless of the nature of it -Latin, Greek, etc- had a purpose when it was first employed. Of course, there are some words that are randomly created and used. No one truly knows if the color orange was named after the fruit or if the fruit was named after the color.


But human beings can be very odd, that is a fact. Probably about 95% of the kids in the world have at some point played football, myself included. Some started when they were just a few months old, under super devoted parents who would cry if their team lost. Some may wait until they reach puberty and then develop a love for the game. Some quit way before going to high school, stating it is too dangerous -or simply not their thing. That being said, for a certain period of time, all these kids share one common passion: football. You can go anywhere around the globe; you may not speak the same language as those who you have in front of you; you may not share skin color, nor religious beliefs; you very likely will not see them ever again after that brief moment. But if you see a group of kids playing football, you know you can join them and you will be more than welcomed to be part of the game.

Kids really do not have any filters. They are honest, even maybe ruthless sometimes. They do not mean it. They speak their minds, which is marvelous. And when they are at a loss of words, they use whatever way of communication that may work. The beauty of football is that in many occasions is used as a language of communication, as something to bring people together. Even during World War I, soldiers from different parties agreed on playing a football match on Christmas Evening and turn their backs to the cruelty of the war. No matter where you go, you can always rely on football.

In Spain we say “there is always an exception that confirms the rule”. Words are words. They are part of one of the almost seven thousand languages in the world. Yes, the world speaks in seven thousand languages. That gives room to many exceptions, I am sure. The biggest, and probably most noticeable one is the case of the United States. A place where everyone plays football yet no one knows who Carles Puyol is. To people living in the United States, soccer makes more sense. Soccer, is it one of those words that were randomly made up? I always wonder, why does everyone in this country think that it makes perfect sense to name a sport based on the size of the ball you are using to play it? Language is magnificent, and so is football. You can still go to the US and without speaking a word of English, you may end up having a throw-in after a “deflection” from the “defence”. Call it whatever you want, you will still play the most beautiful sport in the world.


You can follow Aitor on Instagram @aitorfuentes23

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