I know enough soccer Spanish to get by, sometimes enough that
the players think I really do speak Spanish. But I don't think anyone
has ever been offended that I use Spanish on the field. Sometimes I
find that a phrase or two will keep players from thinking that they can
get away with taunting the referee or the opponents in Spanish. Vinnie
Mauro talks about doing a game in Italy just after the 1990 World Cup.
A player assumed that Vinnie was an English only speaking American, and
began making some very nasty comments about him in Italian for the
benefit of his teammates. Vinnie turned to the guy and said, in his
Neopolitan dialect, "Why should we Italians be talking to each other
like this?" The guy turned white as a sheet and that was the end of it.
Don't stress out about this. Remember that Klinsman spoke
English on the field to his German players during the World Cup played
From: Discussion of Topics for Soccer Referees
[mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Vince DeFranco
Sent: Saturday, September 09, 2006 10:10 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Speaking to Players in Another Language
On 9/9/06, Lawrence Savell <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> Today I did a three match set with BU14, BU15, & BU16. Each had one
> team that was predominately, if not all Hispanic. I did the center for
> At one point the captain of the team and one of his players were
> making a couple of comments in English about the play. I didn't think
> it amounted to dissent but I turned to them to nip it in the bud and
> said,"Shsh! Silencio por favor!" One of the players said, "I speak
> I didn't have any trouble from any of them for the rest of the match
> but I wonder if those of you who do ethnic matches can tell me if I
> committed a "faux pax." :-)
If you don't know the language well, then I wouldn't suggest using it on
the field at all. You'll only make yourself out to look like a fool if
you're not careful.
I will usually make every attempt to communicate with them in English.
If that fails, I will then talk to them in Spanish. If they complain
to me, I reply that when I don't get the desired response, I assume you
don't understand what I'm saying in English so I will try a different
language. In Larry's situation, I'd respond to him that even though he
may *speak* English, evidently he doesn't *understand* English because
he didn't do what you asked him to do (if he didn't actually do what you
asked him to do).
At the begining of the match, it would be helpful to inform the
coach/team captain that you do speak Spanish and you can speak to the
players in Spanish if that's easier for them and it is what they want.
When you're dealing with the Sunday afternoon Hispanic league, you'll
need to get the feel for what they want you to do. If that means asking
them what language they feel more comfortable with you speaking, then do
it. This way there will be no surprises, and, they'll know that you
understand Spanish so you will not have to deal with them later when
they try to curse in Spanish.
In general, I've found that most high school and college teams,
regardless of how many Hispanic players they have on their team, are
mostly interested in speaking English. Usually the coaches are teachers
(especially at high schools) and in the classes they teach they speak
English. It's only natural that the kids should know English well
enough for them to understand it on the soccer field. In fact, I
received a telephone call after a game from the AD of one high school
where the team was all Hispanic requesting that I no longer speak
Spanish during the games with their teams because they want to enforce
English in all their students! It came as a surprise to me because no
one on the team said anything to me about it. I had assumed it was OK.
You know what happens when you assume...
In Larry's example, if they were speaking in English already, then I
think it definitely was a "faux pax" for you to start speaking in
Spanish to them. They are demonstrating to you that they do comprehend
the language by already speaking it. It sounds to me that in the
situation as described, you might have offended them by speaking in
Spanish in this instance, but, as usual, YMMV & YHTBT.