Monthly Archives: July 2014

2014 Soccer World Cup and Interpretation at the Pre-Games Press Conference

In these warm July days of soccer World Cup fever, it is fitting to wonder what about the purpose of those pre-games press conferences and how they are being translated for international audiences.

These pre-games press conferences are imposed by the all-mighty FIFA to coaches and captains of teams whose games are planned for the next day. Surely, coaches could do without those mandatory press conferences and those exercises of answering questions posed by international media.

This is not a place where coaches would sprinkle confidences about team line-ups and strategy. Instead, these imposed press conferences follow a marketing purpose: to display and promote FIFA sponsors. It all starts with the colorful three stripe football itself, property of mighty ADIDAS. Placed right in front of the coach himself , the useless ball pursues a pure marketing ploy…unless the coach and reporters present in the conference room decide to engage in an impromptu soccer game. Then, the blue background of questionable aesthetic value: logos off all other sponsors are there…a Japanese multinational company specialised in electronic music, a credit card company, a fast food company, a car manufacturer. Just as useless as the football are the energizing and high-sugar content beverages placed on the table with labels carefully turned toward the camera…I have yet to see a coach or player quenching his thirst with these healthy beverages…or see any glasses that organizers would care to provide.

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Business has its raison d’être that has nothing to do with logic.

What about the interpreters? If you need English, switch to 1; Spanish, switch to 2; Portuguese, switch to 3 or French, then switch to 4. In this Babel tower that pre-games press conference have become, the interpreters are the indispensable tool for understanding personal football philosophies as explained by Joachim Löw, the German coach.

We would have plenty of questions to ask to these interpreters if we were fortunate enough to meet them. These press conferences are graced with stereotype language. The French have an expression for this: “la langue de bois”.  How do you render “langue de bois” into Korean or Farsi?  Do you need to know soccer terminology before serving as a FIFA interpreter? Apparently not. At a press conference given by the Korean coach, Hong Myungbo, some technical word in Korean was translated in French as ” passe basse” or, litterally, “low pass” in English. I still wonder what it means.

Remains that some incomprehensible translations have made these otherwise boring and self-serving pre-game press-conferences quite amusing.

(This blog was inspired in part by an article published in the online of French daily “Le Monde” on July 4, 2014. The picture being reproduced here was part of that article)