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.