Football and translation: Observation notes 57-59

Observation note 57: Football crazy. I went to the movies with my family tonight. This is a rare occurrence in this age of streaming on our own devices. The last time all four of us went to the films together was when I wanted to watch Bridget Jones’s Baby a few years back. This time, in a similar vein, we watched King Otto with its fabulous byline of “Ancient Greece had 12 gods. Modern Greece has 11”. The movie is a sports documentary about the German coach Otto Rehhagel, his bilingual assistant coach Ioannis Topalidis and the Greek National Football Team winning the Euro 2004 Cup.

Observation note 58: Football mad. My family is totally and utterly football mad. They watch at all hours, they are members of their team, Sydney FC, they go nuts in the member’s cove, they travel nationally and internationally to see their teams play and frankly it all got a bit intense several years ago when my eldest, unfortunately, was seriously assaulted at a derby game. These apples of my eye have not fallen all that far from my tree as I was football mad in my youth too with the ultimate kudos of having sat directly in front of Maradona (who was in the member’s box) at a local game in Sydney. I am a potty-mouthed fishwife at the football as I forget myself and start heckling the teams (my sons never realised the reason I read books during games is not because I am bored but because I get so intensely enraged in the game I forget my manners at home). I too come from an apple orchard as my father was in love with the game and was one of the (many) founders of PanHellenic in Sydney in the 1950s. Though a religious man who taught at his parish’s Sunday School, he was so mad for football, that when the leaders of the church Sunday Schools asked him to give up his role with his football team as they felt he was a bad example the the children, my dad quit going to church instead. So it was only apt that we went to see this movie.

Observation note 59: Football it has robbed her of the little bit of sense she had. Though the movie on the surface is about how Greece, the most underrated and the underdog team of Europe won the cup, it actually is about how the strength of an excellent translator (On first looking into Chapman’s Homer anyone???), who has deep knowledge of two very different languages and cultural mores, was able to bring an understanding between a German coach and a Greek football team. Throughout the movie, I was on the edge of my seat. Despite knowing the outcome, the narrative is told so well that the tension of each game is palpable, each goal thrilling, every emotional celebration fulfilling. The hero of this movie is not only the coach and the team members, but the extraordinary Ioannis Topalidis who brings a deep cultural understanding to his role of translator and assistant coach. I loved the way the language barriers were depicted in this movie, and even more so how the barrier was overcome which led to the best of German and Greek cultures being blended. Topalidis and Rehhagel seem to have a wonderful relationship (dare I say this was a bromance movie) with King Otto’s ending being reminiscent of Casablanca. I loved it. This may be because of my Greek heritage. But then again, it may just be because it is a story well told.

7 thoughts on “Football and translation: Observation notes 57-59

  1. This sounds wonderful. I know nothing about football (I assume this isn’t the American version, but what the Americans call soccer?), but I totally get the football-mad as I live in a hockey-mad city. (Just two days ago, MONDAY night, one of our players was knocked cold by an evil opponent and the rage (much potty-mouth ensued) is still reverberating. Our team, going in as the underdogs, also defeated the evil Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs and you could hear cheering and wooping all over the city if you walked out on your balcony. From one fan to another: pot on!)

    • Oh Kay! It was splendid! I hope it comes you can find a way to watch it. It’s movie run here in Sydney has been super-short. 10 days and pfffft! it is over. And yes – it is the sport that heathens *ahem* call soccer (even sport savvy Americans and Australians know better than to use that word). There is much to be said about the fan experience in sport and how it can change our behaviour. I accidently dropped the C***bomb at a game last month and a father with his young child got up in disgust and left. My son was disgusted with me. Apparently, I am from now on relegated to the chanting masses behind the goals and cannot sit amongst the families any more. Or I can just take a book and control my urge to swear!

      • Our team won last night and it was sweet sweet revenge for a really bad and vindictive hit that took one of our players out of the game for the duration of the playoffs. Sport is a fascinating phenomenon: have you read Kapuscinski’s The Soccer War?


    We watch American football on and off during the season and always the Superbowl game. We watch footie during the World Cup. My husband watches some cricket, but we do not watch baseball (boring) or basketball (too fast). We will never watch golf. I try to watch as much of the Olympics as I can. I am more of a fan of those sports. We are not a sports-mad family as such.

    • I don’t know if “sat” is the right word. My girlfriend and I were so beside our selves with excitement when we realised it was Maradona that we kept leaping up and down waving to him from our seats (he ignored us).

      It’s good to hear that cricket finds its way into USian homes. I don’t mind basketball but prefer volleyball. And the Olympics is always an important time of the year. When my kids were younger, we would open up the sofa bed in front of the TV for the full two weeks so we could watch the Olympics at all hours (the timezones being what they are we would sleep in the day and watch through the night). And our absolute favourite for my sons and me is watching the wrestling (my husband abhors it). It appeals to our sense of sports+theatre+absurdity. I had never really thought of us as sports-mad but I guess I could be wrong 😀

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