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Watching Football Improves Your Spanish

You’d think the location of the 2006 World Cup would be improving my German. Instead, it’s helping me work on my Spanish. Yes, all games are being aired in the US, on ESPN, ESPN2 or ABC. But it’s very hard to get the World Cup experience watching US television. Right after Trinidad and Tobago’s brilliant draw with Sweden (respect to Shaka Hislop for an amazing performance – go Soca Warriors!), ABC switched coverage of golf. Golf!? The next game – Argentia/Cote d’Ivoire – is being broadcast on ESPN2. Until five minutes before the game, ESPN2 showed highlights from the French Open.

I don’t know about you, but I like to settle in for a couple of matches at a time. I want to spend the hour after a match watching highlights, listening to commentators tell me who was great and who came up lame, giving me background on the upcoming match and showing me colorfully painted fans singing in the streets of random cities.

Which is exactly what Univision does. Republica Deportiva goes straight from the matches into the streets of Germany, where marauding gangs of football fans seem to mysteriously appear in front of any microphone a Univision reporter presents. Before the Argentina match with “Costa de Marfil”, we got interviews with football fans from both nations, street scenes from Abidjan, a quick report on the ongoing civil war, and remembrances of great Argentine sides. For five minutes before the teams take the field, we get a wonderful shot of the teams lined up side by side, holding hands with cute German kids, before they run onto the field together.

Occasionally I switch over to ESPN for match commentary I can undertand more than 30% of. And then adidas runs the “José + 10” commercials where two kids choose dream football teams in Spanish… I’m not sure if the ad is designed to appeal to American football fans… who presumably all speak Spanish, or whether it’s designed to remind English-speaking Americans that most football fans they know speak Spanish.

I’m off to Istanbul tomorrow – I’d planned on wearing my USA kit to whatever bar I end up watching the USA/Italy game in on Sunday… but none of the stores in my local mall has a single piece of US team apparel. So I’ll be wearing my Ghana Black Stars jersey, bought in Jamestown, Accra a decade ago. That should spark some conversations… Go USA! Go Ghana! Go Univision!

3 thoughts on “Watching Football Improves Your Spanish”

  1. Tell me about it! Since Friday, I have been doing nothing but watching football (ok, I’ve been blogging a little bit too). I turn on the TV at 1500, an hour before the first match starts, watching analysis and expectations for the match, and stay in front of the TV till 0000, when the third match ends, and maybe a little bit more to watch even further analysis and highlights. I think it’s really weird how most Americans don’t care about football; it’s the No. 1 sport worldwide, but not in the USA.

  2. There’s a very troublesome idea called “American exceptionalism”, Ahmed. It’s an idea that America is a unique nation and not subject to the same forces of history as other nations. Some Americans seem to feel like our national ignorance of football is part of our unique identity as a nation. I tend to feel like those folks are idiots.

    Anyway, watching the US try to come back from a very bad first goal. Looking forward to watching Saudi’s first match later this week…

  3. OK, why don’t u take Hash (of whiteafrican.com) along and then u both come over to my place here in Germany and we watch it either live or on a big screen. :-)

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