Is the universal language of football enough?

The lead up to the Beijing Olympics over the past few weeks has meant that the start of the football season was quiet… well, relatively quiet. Being a Charlton fan, I tend to experience a combination of hope and fear as this time of year comes around. Our win against Swansea last week was great, despite the rain. Without dwelling on the Carling Cup, I just hope we can prove the doomsayers wrong and keep up our momentum in the league for the rest of the season. Come on you Reds!!
As Charlton now ply their trade in the Championship for a second season, us fans have had to make several mental adjustments. One of the things our relegation makes you realise is just how international the Premiership has become. The market for professional footballers must be one of the best-known examples of globalisation.
Over the past few decades there’s been a huge increase in foreign managers and foreign players (usually defined as those from outside of the UK and Ireland). Back in 1992, the first weekend of the Premiership saw just 11 foreign players starting on the field. Only 3 teams fielded more than one – Arsenal, Man Utd and Leeds (times really have changed!).
This increase has meant new challenges face both players and managers. Language barriers can be difficult to overcome. When Ranieri gave his first interview in English as the new manger of Chelsea in 2001, he admitted that being unable to speak the language had made a tough job “even tougher”.
There have certainly been some success stories. Since his appointment as manager in 1996, Arsene Wenger has led Arsenal to victories in both the Premiership and the FA cup, while coming painfully close in the Champions League. Likewise, Juande Ramos came to Spurs last season with supposedly only a basic grasp of English and yet pulled them up the table – pausing only to defeat Chelsea to seize the Carling Cup. The SPL hasn’t been immune either, even outside of the “big two”, with the likes of Finnish manager Paatelainen doing a workmanlike job at Hibs.
As a new season – with all its highs and lows – begins, the quality brought to UK football by this internationalisation is definitely enjoyable. The debate will no doubt continue to rage over whether it is a good thing, although few would argue we should follow the example of Malaysia’s total ban. The introduction of foreign players and mangers can certainly have a positive impact on a club, but even with the universal language of football, good communication is still necessary between nationalities both on and off the pitch.

2 Replies to “Is the universal language of football enough?”

  1. The managers of the big 4 and a large chunk of the top players are all foreign. The truth is the English Premiership is now a world league, one of the few really international ones both in terms of following and players. The world’s best on our doorstep … great!

Comments are closed.