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24.2.2004
Lost in traslation

You love England. You love football. You love English football. So you are a typical Englishman. The reality of English society is often that the life is as good as the national football team is. You are patriotic: the impacts of English game and the national team to your society are impressive.

So is it right that English national team could have a player who is not born in England and doesnít even speak English properly? Could this kind of player lead your country to the glory with burning heart for a cause? Is he going to sing hand on his heart the national anthem? Even if he did know the words and helped England to success, would all of you English people be happy about your national pride then? Are these questions even something international football should deal with?

FIFA regulations say they are. Rules allow a player to apply for a football nationality if he has played in a country for five years and not performed any other national team before. England could in theory have a player like Cudicini in the side already. And many others are in the waiting list. They are good players. But they are not English. It doesnít sound right. You Englishmen love your own blood, and you have a good reason for it. Some things have to mean more. Especially wearing a national team shirt. Foreign players might have come to stay in English football. However they should not be allowed to play for your country. Obviously there are clear cases that someone has become a real part of society and then it is acceptable. But we just have to try to avoid a situation where international football could end up obeying economical power like club football does. Maybe Abrahimovic decides next to buy a national team and players for it. How weird and wrong it would be for example Armenia was the next Chelsea of international football!

The massive flow of foreign players to your country has raised this nationality issue but also changed your beloved domestic game. During the international games the training grounds are quite empty. It means both that England attracts the best players in the world and that there are less chances for your own young English players to come through these days. Still I believe that with the help of foreign players and managers English football have become better in recent years. The different kinds of skills, training methods and football knowhow have increased the level of English clubs. However it is essential that the core of English game have still remained, because that makes it special and that is what you come to watch for. The small finesses have only added some flavour to it. At the moment England is arguably one of the most competitive and attractive leagues in the world.

The variety of different styles to play and personalities from different cultural backgrounds make the game more exciting. It makes it also harder to understand. You might have seen the film Lost in translation. It is a funny story about the situations and problems language and cultural barrier can make. For a football club it is every day reality: sometimes funny, sometimes problematic. Still seriously real with no Oscars to be given.

English starts to be a minority language in some of the clubs. It certainly might look stupid for you in the interviews. You might start to wonder is it really that hard to find a player who can give a proper English answer. You might laugh at commentators struggling to pronounce these difficult foreign names like Yakubu Aiyegbeni or Aki Riihilahti. I am sure you can also imagine all the weird things that happen in the every day life of a football club.

There are many dilemmas. Spanish player is used to having a free-kick whenever he falls but English player is used to not having divers. South-American player wants to play short pass although Scottish player might be already running away for a long ball. How does a Latvian keeper try to explain Chinese, Jamaican, Belgian wall which way to go! How do you communicate with a Slovakian player who doesnít speak a word of English? The price of misunderstandings can be costly. Even if a foreign keeper knew the essential keeper words and couple of swear words, it wonít immediately give him a presence that defence can rely on. Sometimes the mutual language of football is not enough. You are just lost in translation.

It is not just the language but it is also a cultural barrier. Like it is in any multicultural society. I have played with a Muslim player because his life style during the Ramadan. Clubs have to take all these things into consideration. No matter how you want to respect other playerís customs, it isnít always easy. I have been rooming with a player that didnít really talk any language I knew, refused to watch television and woke up five a clock in the morning to pray loudly on his mat. It wasnít a preparation I wanted before a game, but how could I complain about other personís beliefs. There are many such examples.

It is also a blessing. You learn about other cultures and see different ways to live a life. I have even witnessed in Norwegian club a non-communicational French, Finnish, Vietnamese thanksgiving dinner even though none of these countries normally even celebrate this day. In a football club you learn to tolerate and understand different backgrounds and customs. There are differences in languages, customs and styles of playing but many times also everything from the taste of food, humour and clothes donít play the same game. Still it is essential that you work well together each day. Sometimes it is too big of a challenge. Sometimes it would be better not to have foreigners at all.

I am alone in a country with different language and customs to mine Ė in your country. It isnít always easy; I sometimes miss home. However I always think it is my duty to learn your language, customs and adapt to your society. That is the only way I can justify my being here. Obviously I have to produce results on the pitch as well. It is me who has to make sure that there are no problems on or off the pitch. I am the foreign player in your country. You donít necessarily need me here. I think every foreigner have to respect the fact that we have been given a great opportunity to play football here so we should also work hard to adapt to your culture and customs. There shouldnít be any grey areas because of cultural differences or langue barriers. That is part of a foreign playerís job.

I am not the best foreign player that has played in your stadiums and my name is ridiculously hard to pronounce, but at least I treat England and English culture with great respect. I promise that I am never going to play for England though. Obviously I am not probably good enough and actually not eligible but I also think it would be wrong. I know where I come from and I am proud of it. I think so should all the others who are even considering of using this nationality ruling. The only rule foreigners should follow is to try to be not lost in translation.


This time I recommend
1. Lost in translation -movie
- I know the feeling, I wish I knew Scarlet JOhansson also -

I do not recommend
1. Changing nationality on weak grounds
- If you are Italian and not good enough for your own national team, don't try to be Scottish then -


"God save the queen doesn't translate Oi maamme Suomi.."
- Aki


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