The World Cup of Diversity

world cup arguing with refThe World Cup is a cornucopia of languages, facial expressions and of course…lots of pointing. It’s a remarkable testament of the power of sport to unite. It also reminds me of my childhood.

Yuichi Nishimura

When I immigrated to Canada at the age of 10 from Jamaica I spoke one language — English. Okay, if you count Jamaican Patois I spoke two languages.

My family rented a flat in a house in downtown Toronto. The large house was owned and occupied by the same Italian family. There were Italians in the basement, Italians on the first floor, Italians on the third floor and us Jamaicans in the middle on the second floor.

As a result I learned a lot about Italians. I learned to love Italian food and I even picked up a bit of the language…granted, mostly the swear words I learned from the kids in the house. I also learned to love football (aka soccer in North America).

Watching this year’s  World Cup got me thinking about my boyhood days in the Italian house.  And although everyone in the house spoke English– at least some form of it — there were times when we could barely understand each other. However, through a series of hand gestures, facial expressions and yes…lots of pointing, we got along quite well.

Playing in the World Cup is a bit like living in a house crammed with people from 32 different countries speaking dozens of different languages all wanting the same thing. (Here yon find out how to say “World Cup” in 36 languages .)

world cup arguing
The poor referees — there are about 90 of them — are on the receiving end of this Field of Babel.

arguing with ref 3

As  Jeffrey Marcus, assistant international editor for the New York Times asks: “How does a Brazilian defender tell a Turkish referee what a great job he’s doing? And does an Argentine referee understand when a South Korean player confesses: “No, sir, I was not fouled by my valiant Russian opponent. I fell on my own!” (O.K., that never happens.)”

The reality is players can behave badly; they yell, swear,  and perform on the world’s greatest stage…in multiple languages.

faking injury 2Of course one universal expression requires no translation; the schwalbe, when a player fakes an injury.

Regardless of country of origin, cultural  traditions or practices, faking an injury ‘just right’ to draw a penalty against the other team is an important part of the game. Some players have perfected it to a science, leaving their opponents and fans bewildered.

Faking-InjuryAs I watch the World Cup (sometimes with the sound turned off) I am mesmerized by the beauty of the Beautiful Game.


World Cup Italians arguing with ref

I also work on my lip-reading and hand gesture skills when the Italians take to the field.





6 comments on “The World Cup of Diversity

    1. Wouldn’t it be great if the outcome of “wars” were decided on the sports field instead of the field of battle? Wishful thinking, I know, but a guy can dream…no?

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