What language do the refs speak at the world cup?
June 29, 2014 4:10 PM   Subscribe

There are teams from around the world that speak so many languages. When teams have different primary languages is their an " international" language for soccer? I highly doubt that the ref for today's game spoke Spanish and Greek.
posted by Coffee Bean to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (6 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

The official languages of FIFA are English, Spanish, French and German.

In 2006, FIFA passed a new regulation that required all referees to have a working knowledge of English so that they could at least communicate with each other, if not the players.

In practice, players (and not just in football, this is more or less true for most international sports) will use whatever language they share, which is frequently English but I'm sure that varies widely. "If a player doesn't happen to share a language with the referee, he might yell in his native language just to convey that he's upset. "Any kind of fellatio comment is inevitably understood," says Alexi Lalas, who was on the U.S. World Cup roster in 1994 and 1998."
posted by Snarl Furillo at 4:19 PM on June 29, 2014 [6 favorites]

In one of the matches last week, before the coin flip, the ref could be clearly heard asking both captains "Is English OK?" I don't think that he was from an English speaking country, but the teams certainly were not.
posted by jindc at 5:32 PM on June 29, 2014

I recently read an article on the process of qualifying to be a referee in the World Cup. The focus was on your fitness as a runner -- you needed to be able to perform intervals at a pretty fast pace in order to qualify. However, in the article they mentioned that FIFA requires you to be proficient in English and conducted a number of tests to ensure that is the case. The ref in today's match was Ben Williams an Australian who as best I can determine only speaks English. This is also alluded to in this WSJ article. I can no longer find the original running qualifications article I read last week.
posted by Lame_username at 5:34 PM on June 29, 2014

All World Cup refs have to speak English, apparently. But there was a little controversy on that front in the opening match: Japan Rejects Claim Referee Can’t Handle English

I do recall Landon Donovan saying the U.S. had trouble communicating with the ref in 2010: Landon Donovan discusses frustrating World Cup referees
posted by AppleTurnover at 11:39 PM on June 29, 2014

Snarl Furillo: "Any kind of fellatio comment is inevitably understood," says Alexi Lalas, who was on the U.S. World Cup roster in 1994 and 1998.

Seems like that will help with after-game discussions as well! I mean, if they were willing to let bygones be bygones and all...
posted by IAmBroom at 8:51 AM on July 1, 2014

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