World Cup Words: Talking about Football in Japanese

Source: Gaijin Pot
World Cup Words: Talking about Football in Japanese

Following the Japan team’s fantastic performance against Belgium, even after elimination my Japanese colleagues are still going crazy for the World Cup. For foreign people living here, this can be a great chance to get your coworkers to open up as even people who don’t know a defender from a striker will be quite happy to discuss at great length Japan’s second goal against Columbia, whether they should have beaten their Senegalese opponents in the second match or the infamous last 10 minutes of the game with Poland.

While there is no shortage of people who are willing to talk about football, one of the tricky things for Japanese learners is mastering some of the terms associated with the sport. Some of it is decidedly English, but some of the language uses uniquely Japanese concepts.

Fortunately, as the sport has British origins, a lot of the terms are taken from the English language. While “football-is-football” stalwarts like myself may not like the fact the sport is called サッカー (soccer) over here (or in Canada and the United States), the British influence is clearly seen in words like ゴール (goal), シュート (shoot), フェイント (feint), オウンゴール (own goal) and many other terms.

Similarly, the names for the positions are also taken from English. A チーム (team) usually consists of フォワード or ストライカー (forwards or strikers), ディフェンダー (defenders), ゴールキーパー or キーパー (goalkeeper) and ミッドフィールダー (midfielders).

While the names of most positions are pretty straightforward, one of the strange 和製英語(わせいえいご), or quasi-English, words that took me by surprise was the abbreviation スタメン. What’s confusing about this word is that it doesn’t describe the star players (サッカースター or スタープレイヤー) but instead the starting line-up of the squad. For the longest time, whenever I heard スタメン, I assumed that there must be 11 star players …continue reading