The world of football has expanded beyond imagination in the last century. It no longer exists as merely a sport, but as a culture. Football is different in every country across the globe and transcends race, religion and language. Each place has its own footballing culture and, although it seems like a simple game, you find so much more when you delve into these unique cultures. From Argentina to Australia, Germany to Ghana, language often dictates matters and inspires a rich, linguistic variety of phrases.
In order to take you across the world and experience these weird and whacky turns of phrase, let me guide you through an imaginary match between two of football’s greatest ever teams as Arrigo Sacchi’s AC Milan of 1989 face off against Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona of 2009 in a heavyweight tussle. It’s a game everyone wants to see, taking place at the Wanda Metropolitano in
Viewers of this historic game in Japan would note the two Shireitōs (control towers) at the heart of Barcelona’s midfield; Xavi and Iniesta possess extraordinary vision of the pitch in front of them and spray passes left, right and centre. Meanwhile, Spanish fans of Barcelona point out the lack of an Armario (wardrobe) in the Milan defence; neither Franco Baresi or Alessandro Costacurta are tall, bulky centre-halves.
The referee blows his whistle and Samuel Eto’o gets us underway with the coup d’envoi (kick-off) in his native language. Guardiola’s men apply the early pressure and begin to dominate possession. The Jamaican fans in the crowd cry ‘salad’ as Lionel Messi tucks the ball through the legs of Paolo Maldini and runs around him. The Argentine tries to play a one-two with Thierry Henry but the former Arsenal striker fails to control the pass and is labelled a derevo (tree) by the Russian section of the stadium.
Unlike his usual composed self, Iniesta lashes a shot high and wide of Giovanni Galli’s goalframe as viewers in Saudi Arabia mock him for layastad Al-hamaan (pigeon hunting) a homage to a wild effort. The raucous support for both sides is turning the stadium into a hexenkessel (witch’s cauldron) for viewers watching back home in Germany. They also commend the outstanding ability of Messi, the raumdeuter (space interpreter), to time his runs to perfection.
Milan finally manage to mount a counter-attack, but after Carlo Ancelotti lanza una nevera (launches a fridge) past Marco van Basten, it seemed like the chance was gone. Ancelotti’s overhit pass was miles in front of his forward but Van Basten managed to use his aile de pigeon (pigeon’s wing) to bring the ball down with the outside of his foot. With the ball now under control, he surges towards Victor Valdés’ goal and looks certain to put Milan a goal ahead.
Gerard Piqué hasn’t given up and races back towards his own goal. As he catches Van Basten, the Chinese contingent in the ground cry “there’s a ghost!” while the English shout ‘”man on!” The Dutchman holds off Piqué’s challenge and buries it into the ratonera (mouse nest). Valdés turns to see the ball roll into the bottom corner before his centre-back picks it up and sends it back to the halfway line for kick off.
As half-time approaches, Barcelona test Milan’s resolve once more but were denied each time by a block or a save. Henry comes closest with a pepinazo (cucumber), as the Spaniards called it, after his curling shot was parried by Galli. The Italian goalkeeper wasn’t the only one contributing to the clean sheet; Ancelotti had taken up a position labelled the stofzuiger (vacuum cleaner) by the Dutch and sat in front of the back four.
Eventually, in the final minute of first-half stoppage time, Xavi finds Messi inside the Milan penalty area. An Italian blockade stops him in his tracks but the ball rebounds out to Sylvinho who unleashes an unstoppable drive towards the top corner, or onde dorme a coruja (where the owl sleeps) in his native Portuguese, to bring Barça level. The Saudi Arabians behind the goal cry mazhariya (vase) at the rooted Galli, who simply watched the shot fly past him.
The Milan tifosi turn silent and become kaaskijkers (cheese watchers) according to a frustrated Ruud Gullit in the dressing room at half-time; they aren’t making enough noise. Sacchi produces an inspiring team talk during the break and Milan begin to pile pressure on Valdés’s goal. Angelo Colombo and Roberto Donadoni manage to get to the byline more frequently and whip some dangerous crosses across the six-yard box. Valdés fails to deal with any of them convincingly and can only flap his hands at the deliveries. The Hungarians at home brand him lepkevadász (butterfly hunter), while the Germans label him fliegenfänger (flycatcher).
However, Sergio Busquets manages to dispossess Gullit and launch a counter-attack. The Swedes in the crowd rejoice at his smörpassning (butter pass) that lands perfectly at the feet of Henry before the Frenchman touches it past Mauro Tassotti. Baresi manages to force the former Arsenal man wide, only for him to place a delightful cross on Eto’o’s head, the Cameroonian burying it with a thumping header. A Flemish household watching on TV in Belgium commends Eto’o for his buffelstoot (buffalo push), such was the power of the header.
Milan once again come under more pressure as their opponents look to kill the game off. Messi manages to gambetea (shrimp) around Ancelotti and Frank Rijkaard during a mazy dribble but can’t find a finish from the edge of the area. Guardiola opts to replace a tired Henry with a young Pedro and the winger has a chance almost immediately after coming on.
Unfortunately for him, it fell to his weaker foot and the shot was sent wide of the far post. Van Basten smirks and refers to his weaker left foot as his chocoladebeen (chocolate leg) in a joke with Gullit. The Netherlands pair combine at the other end of the pitch to bring the Rossoneri level as Van Basten doubles his tally after finding dónde anidan las arañas (the spiders nest) in Valdés’ left corner.
The Milan fans are in full voice once more as their team push for a late winner. First Gullit goes close and then Rijkaard from distance before Xavi picks the ball up deep into his own half and finds Messi with a zuckerpass (sugar pass), according to the German section of the crowd, the ball sweetly finding its man. Messi picks his head up and spots Pedro on the shoulder of Baresi, curi ayam (stealing chicken) as remarked in Malaysia.
The ball is weighted perfectly in behind Baresi and Pedro is left with just Galli to beat. However, the Italian defender is no slouch and there are more cries of yau gwai (there’s a ghost) from the Chinese supporters in the crowd. Just as Pedro is about to pull the trigger, he goes down in a heap and the ball flies off his boot and out for a throw-in.
The Barcelona players surround the referee and call for a penalty. Milan fans across the globe try to prove Baresi’s innocence; the Kenyan’s exclaim kukanyaga nyoka (he stepped on a snake) and simply slipped over; the Germans are certain that it was a schwalbe (swallow) and that Pedro dived; while the French blamed the champ de potates (potato field) and the poor state of the pitch.
The referee waits two minutes before making a decision. He points to the spot. Baresi and the rest of the Milan contingent on and off the field are outraged. One Polish fan yells sedzia kalosz (welly referee) at the referee, suggesting that he is so bad that he deserves to be struck by a wellington boot. Despite the protests, Messi places the ball on the penalty spot.
With seconds left on the clock, the referee blows his whistle and Barcelona’s talisman begins his run-up. The Argentine catches the ball with his laces and sends it rocketing towards the top corner before Galli stretches out an extraordinary hand to tip the ball onto the crossbar. It lands safely on the roof of the net and the hexenkessel is set alight once more.
The final whistle sounds and Galli is paraded upon his teammates’ shoulders for a lap of honour. One Korean fan calls him geomison (spider hands) in response to his heroic goalkeeping performance.
It’s all in a game of football.
By Billy Munday @BMunday08