It’s difficult to argue that football is not a truly international sport. The conventions used around the world to name players, however, vary widely, and serve as a useful reminder that you can’t directly translate one word into its foreign equivalent. Different cultures express things in different ways – in fact they often express subtly different things full stop. In trying to explain the differences we come across a number of the social, cultural and economic factors that influence language.
When I was at primary school there was a persistent belief in the playground that Brazilian footballers only had one name. I understand where it came from – some of the greats have been known by one word: Pelé, Zico, Ronaldinho (Ronaldinho Gaúcho in Brazil). (more…)