Do You Speak "Socceranto"? Soccer Gets Its Own International Language

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The 32 countries competing in the World Cup share 18 official languages between them. So, how are players and officials meant to communicate? The answer is for soccer to adopt a shared international language. So argue the inventors of just such a language, in a book titled “Socceranto: Birth Of A Language”, which lists words, phrases and principles of the new language--available through (

The 32 countries competing in the World Cup speak 18 official languages between them--not including the local dialects many participants actually speak.

So, how are officials, players and managers meant to communicate? The answer is to adopt a shared international language. So argue the inventors of just such a language in a book published on Lulu (, a website that lets anyone publish their own book.

"Socceranto: Birth Of A Language" ( is part dictionary and part phrasebook. It is the work of an international team of fans led by an Argentinian-American student and an English schoolboy.

"Things are all very well when, say, Ecuador plays Costa Rica or Ghana meets the USA", says Ted Freedman, 16, the England fan who co-edited the book. "But what about when Japan plays Brazil or Ukraine meets Saudi Arabia?"

The name "Socceranto" comes from the word "soccer"--a 19th-century offshoot of the term, "Association Football"--and Esperanto, the language invented in 1887 by Ludwig Zamenhof, that is the best-known previous attempt to invent an international language.

"Soccer," adds Ignacio van Gelderen, 21, Freedman's co-editor, "has become the most international game in the world and the most globalized industry."

Socceranto draws most on six core languages--those of each of the seven nations to have won the World Cup to date: Portuguese (Brazil), Spanish (Argentina and Uruguay), Italian, French, German and English.

It bases Socceranto words on both the names of famous players and on soccer slang and jargon, while also coining some brand new words:

maradona: n. a goal scored with illegal use of the hand. [Derivation: Diego Maradona who scored for Argentina against England in the 1986 World Cup by using his hand.]

muller: n. goalscorer. [Derivation: Gerd Muller, the great German striker of the 1970s, who remains top scorer in World Cup history, with 14 goals.]

fliegenfanger: n. a useless goalkeeper. [Derivation: German for “flycatcher” and so slang for a poor goalkeeper.]

rono – n. a (non-Brazilian) player of Brazilian flair or skill; an honorary Brazilian.

[Derivation: Names of Brazil stars, Ronaldinho and Ronaldo.]

"This is just the launch of a long-term project," says van Gelderen. “Or, as we say in Socceranto, it's "early doors" (early in the game). We hope that Socceranto will develop in time into a richer, more international, more distinct and fully fledged language. "And that this World Cup will help."

The book’s editors call on fans worldwide to help develop the language by contributing their own ideas to an online forum (



ronaldinho: a no-look pass — named after Brazil’s Ronaldinho, who is a master at finding a team-mate without apparently looking up.

kaka: a volley. Named after Kaka, the Brazil and AC Milan midfielder, famed for his superb volleying.]

zizou: a 360-degree, spin-turn. Named after Zinadine Zidane, alias “Zizou”, master of this kind of turn.

pelé: a bicycle-kick. The brilliant Brazilian star made the overhead kick his trademark.

roberto: a banana kick. Named after two Brazilian greats, both famed for their banana-kicks, seventies icon Roberto Rivelino and Real Madrid’s galactico Roberto Carlos.


baggio: a missed penalty. Named after Roberto Baggio of Italy, who missed a crucial spot-kick in the penalty shoot-out at the end of the 1994 World Cup Final.

caniggia: sending off. Named after Argentina’s Claudio Caniggia, who managed to get sent off against Sweden in the 2002 World Cup while still sitting on the bench.

maradona: a handballed goal. Named after Diego Maradona, who scored a goal with his hand for Argentina against England in the 1986 World Cup.

klinsmann: a dive. Named after Jurgen Klinsmann, now manager of Germany, who as a player in the 1990s had a reputation for diving.

alberto: a wonder goal. Named after Carlos Alberto, whose goal for Brazil against Italy in the final of the 1970 World Cup was recently voted the greatest World Cup goal ever.

muller: a goalscorer. Named after Gerd Muller, the great German striker known as ‘der bomber’, the top scorer in World Cup history with 14 goals including the winner in the 1974 Final.

chilavert: goal scored by a goalkeeper. Named after the Paraguay keeper Jose Luis Chilavert, who scored a total of 62 goals in his career, including eight in international matches.

fontaine: n. a prolific goal-scorer. [Derivation: Juste Fontaine, the great French striker of the 1950s, who scored 13 goals in six matches in the 1958 World Cup – a record for a single World Cup that still stands.)

zoff: a goalkeeper. Named after Dino Zoff, the great Italian keeper who graced three World Cups and still holds the record of 1,142 minutes without conceding an international goal.

zubi: a World Cup veteran. Named after Zubi Zubizaretta, the Spanish goalkeeper of 1980-90s, who became one of the few players to play in four World Cups.


rono: a player who is talented enough to be a Brazilian; an honorary Brazilian. From the names Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Robinho.

baguette — a tall or lanky player, in the mould of England’s Peter Crouch or France’s Patrick Viera: resembling a long, thin French baguette

harrypotter: a midfield wizard

fusila: defensive wall. Abbreviation of the Spanish American term for “execution wall”; refers to the dangers of standing in the wall and being struck in the privates by a roberto

penal: from the root form of penalty, as used in English, French and Spanish.


fliegenfanger: useless goalkeeper. From the German for “flycatcher”.

caudillo: defensive leader. From the Spanish for “voice of command”.

kaiser: a player who dominates a game. From “der Kaiser”, the nickname of Franz Beckenbauer, the legendary captain of West Germany in the 1970s.

the mister: manager or coach. In southern Europe and Latin America many managers used to be English; so this became the generic term for a manager.

bandiera: talisman. From the Italian for “flag”, an Italian term used a player who is the symbol or emblem of the team.

trequartista: play-maker. An Italian football term for a player who plays somewhere between midfield and attack, or “three-quarters” of the way up the pitch.

rustico: player with little skills, a donkey. From the Spanish/Latin American word meaning “rustic”.

fantasista: creative maestro or genius. Italian term for a player who brings fantasy to the game.

nutmeg: to pass the ball between the legs of an opponent — from English Cockney rhyming slang; “nutmegs” is rhyming slang for “legs”.

porteur d'eau — a hardworking, normally defensive, midfielder. From the French word for “water-carrier”. French World Cup winner Didier Deschamps was known as le porteur d'eau.

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