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Language Training

Premiership players taught the language of football

Foreign players at a Premiership team are being sent to a language school to help them understand football jargon.

By Aislinn Simpson

21 Oct 2008

Phrases such as “pick your man up!”, “don’t let him turn you” and “take him on, beat your man!” cause problems for players from abroad and lead to missed opportunities on the pitch.

Now Portsmouth FC has sent international stars back to the classroom to be schooled in the language of football with the help of a Subbuteo table.

Currently 16 of the club’s 28-strong squad come from outside the UK, from places as far flung as Senegal, Israel and Iceland.

Polyglot Solutions, a language school at Southsea, Hants, has been working with Pompey to ensure players can communicate with each other regardless of the pressurised environment of the football pitch.

The crash courses concentrate on teaching pupils to speak “football English”, learning the basic expressions of the game.

Run by multi-lingual entrepreneur Dr Jay Kettle-Williams, Polyglot Solutions has a network of local tutors who work one-to-one with the players.

Its average time to get a player from zero English language skills to being able to function on the pitch is around 11 hours.

Portsmouth’s new Algerian defender Nadir Belhadj is the latest pupil, trained with the aid of Subbuteo.

Company director Dr Kettle-Williams says: “We’ll show them: ‘this is being passed to the centre forward, this is a goal’, and re-enact an actual game.

“This makes all the language as pertinent as possible to what they’re going to be doing on the field.

“We work in the target language, and make sure what they’re learning fits their specific purposes.

“There’s no point in teaching Belhadj to say ‘my uncle’s pen is in your auntie’s bureau’, or how to buy a first class train ticket. We need it to be real, so he can function on the field.”

The level of the players’ language skills have to stand up to considerable pressure when they are performing, he said.

“There’s no time for hesitation, or stopping to think ‘what do they mean?’,” he said.

“And when you’ve got Harry Redknapp standing on the side of the pitch shouting ‘open your minces!’, meaning open your mince pies (eyes), you have to pick up a lot of slang. The whole thing is designed to function at a business level, to understand the technicalities.

“These boys are extremely fit physically, but aren’t necessarily trained in academic kind of learning.”

Other players who have attended lessons include Croatian Ivica Mornar, Cameroonian Franck Songo’o and Serbian Ognjen Koroman.

For French speakers such as Arnold Mvuemba, instead of “montez vers l’avant” they are taught to “push forward!”, “go wide!” (ecartez le jeu), “tuck in!” (defendez), and “man on!” (derriere).

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