In Brazil, futebol has its own language

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 18, 2014 at 3:05 am •  Published: June 18, 2014
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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Do you speak futebol? With the World Cup in full swing, there's never been a better time to learn.

For Brazilians, football is a whole language. Being so creative with their feet forces them to be creative with their tongues, too, to conjure new words and phrases for techniques and styles of play they've perfected in making the English game their own.

Example: For Brazilians, a shot that rises sharply and then dips behind the goalkeeper into the net is a "folha seca" — a dry leaf. Very poetic. That Brazilians see Mother Nature's handiwork in the languid, curvaceous up-then-down trajectory says a lot about how deeply they think about the game.

Didi, a World Cup winner with Brazil in 1958 and 1962, was famed for his dry leaf free kicks. The confounding, opposition-twisting dribbling technique of 1970 World Cup winner Rivelino became known as the "elastico," which speaks for itself. And the overhead "bicicleta" kick, so called because players look like they're riding a bike upside down, is said to have been invented by Leonidas, a star of Brazil's 1934 and 1938 squads.

Daniela Alfonsi, a director at the football museum in Sao Paulo, says Brazilians initially adopted English words when football first landed some 120 years ago, introduced by European-educated Brazilians, notably Charles Miller. So they would have said "goalkeeper" and "match" instead of "goleiro" and "partida" as they do now, she said.

But, quickly, "we invented our own words, Brazilian words," she added.

And then some. Dozens of words and phrases, some cheekily creative, like the best Brazilian players, others humorous, earthy, romantic and even cruel.

A clumsy defender is said to work on a farm, a "fazenda." And when a goalkeeper fumbles or misses a crossed ball, he's gone hunting for butterflies.

The ball — "bola" — is a feminine noun, reinforcing the idea it is "something you have to treat with care, with respect, like you treat a woman," Alfonsi said. (In German, a football, or "der fussball," is masculine, which seems apt for Germany's traditionally muscular style of play).

Goal-poachers who loiter in the penalty area are said to be "na banheira" — "in the bath" — relaxing and taking it easy while teammates run around. Brazil's 1994 World Cup winner Romario or Italy's Filippo Inzaghi were bathers.

And Pele was no mere "jogador" — which means player — he was a "craque," a crack, a genius.