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Why Can’t ESPN Pronounce English Soccer Terms Correctly?

Forgiving the Gaffer’s scheduling criticisms, ESPN mostly has been wonderful for soccer promotion in the U.S..  Top goals are making the top-ten plays.  Sportscenter features highlight reels.  Yesterday’s Real Madrid-Liverpool match, though it was not the greatest testament, featured on the flagship network.  Much has been done, and the burgeoning community of soccer fans is, or at least should be, grateful.

Despite the progress one issue does remain and that is pronunciation.  Soccer’s a foreign game in the U.S. played by largely foreign men.  I can empathize with a Sportscenter anchor stumbling over Spanish.  Italian can be tricky and Portuguese perplexing.  English pundits often do no better.  A level of malapropism and muddling should be tolerable for foreign languages, but why is it happening with English?

The native tongue can be confusing for some folks, as half of the United States thinks thinks that “nuculur” is a word.  Some English soccer terms can still be difficult.  No one in America would intuitively understand that the English pronounce Derby, “Dar-bee.”

However is it really that hard to pronounce “Arsenal” correctly?  Three syllables.  Flows nicely.  It means the same thing on both sides of the Atlantic.  It requires no Latin flourish.

Since Steven Gerrard is one of the most recognizable athletes in the world and has appeared in many Sportscenter reels, why is it impossible to remember that it is Steven, not “Steve” and “GERrard” not “GerRARD.”  (That Will Mays was a hell of a baseball player.  So was Mike Mantle.)

I understand ESPN anchors not following or liking soccer.  I feel similarly about golf.  I think it’s a frustrating, tiresome little game.  I don’t know why the participants are considered athletes, when a corpulent chain smoker can win a major tournament.  But, that doesn’t mean that I discuss “Tigger” Woods and “Philip Michaelson” facing off at “Agoosta Nacionale,” before inciting a giggle fest with my own ignorance.

No one expects you to break down Liverpool’s 4-5-1 formation, comment on Arsenal’s transfer policy or expound upon the Premier League’s impingement on the English National Team.  But, please ESPN, just read the highlights professionally.  It’s not too much to ask.  Or, start spelling things phonetically on the teleprompter.

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  1. Przedrzag

    July 11, 2014 at 7:07 am

    Least it ain’t as bad as Ann Coulter’s claim that football is contributing to the decay of American society.

  2. cftv

    March 13, 2009 at 7:47 am

    Does anyone remember the Stuart Scott hosted show that tried to find a SportsCenter Anchor and they ended up picking Josh Elliott and that Mike guy that is now on the Big 10 Network. Anyway, one of the big points that the ESPN Suit who was one of the judges for the show was that if you are going to be on SportsCenter you have to get the names and teams pronounced correctly. If that is true than as someone else has posted Linda Cohen would be fired years ago for always butchering soccer players names and then giggling it off because its just a soccer highlight.

    And the anchors at Sky Sports are just as bad if not worse at announcing American Sports Teams and Athletes names when they are showing highlights of North American Sports during the last segment or two on SSN Through the Night.

  3. Footballer

    March 13, 2009 at 5:59 am


    Are you f’n kidding me? You have the nerve to criticise ESPN anchors “mispronouncing” football terms, while you misname football throughout your ridiculous article. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black! I’d rather deal with someone who butchers every footballer and football club’s name, but still acknowledges the sport as football.

    You have some nerve to criticise others when you should look at yourself. The damn sport is football. You can’t accept that, and you still have the gall to accuse others of being ignorant about football. You’re the ignorant one. You’re a joke.

  4. tracey

    March 12, 2009 at 9:47 pm

    How many sports presenters would you describe as clever or perceptive? I struggle to think of any. I think they think their audience is dumb so adjust accordingly. Contrast this with the coverage of the arts or politics, subjects smart people are interested in, they wouldn’t get away with it.

  5. eplnfl

    March 12, 2009 at 3:55 pm


    You are way off base if you think Kartik’s comments are motivated by any racism or nationalist feelings. Admitted he is a progressive and so am I. Proudly since, we did not run America off the road. He has a progressive point off view but many in the right wing camp wrongly label lack of support for the conservation Foreign policy that lead us to be one of the most hated countries in the world these last few years as some fatal personal flaw.

  6. jimmy squirrelpants

    March 12, 2009 at 2:10 pm

    Kartik, right on bro. Those filthy Americans, with their slave ships colonizing Italy, the Netherlands and Japan… And you are right, “average” Americans resent football highlights on ESPN, just like “average” Scottish people are cheap, “average” Japanese people like weirdo porn, and “average” Italians are lazy and corrupt.

    Try to keep your racism and nationalism to yourself next time.

  7. mm

    March 12, 2009 at 12:42 pm

    On the contrary, I do not like the ESPN pundits/presenters. They say the obvious, don’t know when to keep quiet, and seem to have a biased view by saying what they think the viewers want to hear. It’s like listening to dreaded NFL announcers with their low IQs.

  8. hal

    March 12, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    What makes it irritating is that they have no problem pronouncing Latino names in baseball, or French-Canadians in hockey, or even the mighty tongue twister José María Olazábal (“OlaTHAbal”) from golf and still keep the Basque pronunciation.

    “What a great run by Liverpool’s Dirk Kooweet!” 🙂

  9. jm

    March 12, 2009 at 8:53 am

    “The coverage of this manufactured world baseball classic, a championship of nations which have only been directly colonized (in some cases economic like Venezuela) or invaded by the United States on ESPN makes me want to vomit.”

    I don’t understand how Kartik could possibly hold this opinion and still enjoy football. Sports have always spread through colonial influence, baseball and football are not exceptions. (I also do not understand why the wrongness of the genesis means that there is something wrong with embracing it now. This is simply the genetic fallacy.)

  10. Chessi

    March 12, 2009 at 4:16 am

    I mean ESPN is the premier boradcaster for footy in ASIA.

  11. Chessi

    March 12, 2009 at 4:15 am

    ESPN in the premier broadcaster for most of European footy action including the Premiership, the la liga and the champions league.
    I have to say, the coverage is excellent, they have some great pundits/presenters like Steve McMahon, John Dykes, Jamie Reeves, Richard Keys and Anrew Leci. The anchors really like football and I am guessing they have phonetically spelt out news bits because even a new anchor coming on SportsCenter get the “Valenthia”, “Seviyya”, “Yuventus” etc. right.
    The only irritant is Man United being called ManU on a very consistent basis on Sportscenter, though of course the pundits don’t do so, they get every pronunciation spot on.

  12. eplnfl

    March 11, 2009 at 10:28 pm

    todd; very good point!

  13. todd

    March 11, 2009 at 10:08 pm

    honestly… if ive said it once, ive said it a million times. once soccer fan in america can get over his own inferiority, we can finally grow as a sport here. this small man complex has been on blog upon blog for years, friend. have a new take, or get in line. its so pathetic

  14. eplnfl

    March 11, 2009 at 9:17 pm


    Kartik, whats wrong with America invading countries? Germany, Japan, and Korea are all better for it. Cuba should be upset that we didn’t do the Bay of Pigs right since right now there would be at least a MLB team in Havana if we had!

    Now, hockey, have you ever been to an NHL game in a “Real” hockey town? Like Chicago or Detroit? You can be my guest for a Blackhawks game and see some very real people fans, blue collar workers who give up their hard earned wages to feel the cold and see the puck move. Please watch this tape of Chicago Fans and you tell me if you think they are having hockey forced on them. Remember this a very “Blue State” crowd.

    As to MLB they deserve every thing they get from their juiced up players to their George W. Bush act alike owners. Many may not recall W made a mess of the Texas Rangers as an owner before he decided to run the US into the ground in a quick eight years. Despite that how, did Holland do it? I should point out that baseball was popular in Japan before WW2. We hardly forced it on them.

    Now can ESPN pronounce a few words better. Yes, but Chris Berman didn’t become famous because he said words right all the time. So, lets be happy that the flagship carried the Liverpool game and we can get top ten coverage and 360 has the Championship!

  15. Django

    March 11, 2009 at 8:10 pm

    censorship sucks

  16. Jay

    March 11, 2009 at 7:35 pm

    We are the best baseball team in Europe and have the best clubs as well.


    Anyways, ignore the stupid Sportscenter anchors. Not only is it a stupid commercialized show, they also don’t know what the heck they are talking about(surprise,surprise). I always cringe when they talk about showing highlights on SC because you know its going to sound extremely forced.

  17. The Gaffer

    March 11, 2009 at 5:12 pm

    Every time I go to Holland, I’m amazed by how many baseball fields I see throughout the country. If anything, I see more baseball parks than soccer fields.

    The Gaffer

  18. Django

    March 11, 2009 at 4:51 pm

    I didn’t even read Kartik’s comment the first time through…but you’re ridiculous. You make sweeping generalizations again about American sports and its fans, as you’ve done in the past on this site, and it’s a real eyesore.

  19. Charles

    March 11, 2009 at 3:27 pm

    I talk about Tigger Woods all the time.

    Also, baseball is hardly a “northeastern” sport. It’s quite popular everywhere in the country. It’s also a great game. And it’s been wonderful the last few days watching the very early efforts to build a World Cup for baseball. Obviously it has nowhere remotely near the popularity of football globally, and never will. But it’s nice to see the powers that be de-nationalizing it just a bit, and calling attention to the way that the US might not be the end-all and be-all of even our own sports.

    And seriously, seeing Holland beat the Dominican Republic twice in a week is approximately as shocking as it would be to see the exact reverse happen in football.

    Plus, the Dutch call baseball “honkball.”

  20. Django

    March 11, 2009 at 2:56 pm

    The worst was yesterday when the promoted “UEFA Cup Knockout Highlights.” Seems like a small thing, but it pissed me off nonetheless.

  21. Kartik

    March 11, 2009 at 2:54 pm

    They do it on purpose.

    I’ve seen Linda Cohn years ago when I still watched ESPN butcher football terms and names and then giggle about it, like saying “yeah it’s foreign, I don’t care and neither should you.”

    I hate Baseball and feel it and Hockey are games the Northeastern based media has forced down the throats of the rest of the nation. But I’d never blatantly butcher the names of a Latin Baseball player or eastern European hockey player for affect to show how un-Southern the game is.

    The average American sports fan that gets their news from ESPN resents football’s presence in this country and ESPN’s anchors reflect that.

    The coverage of this manufactured world baseball classic, a championship of nations which have only been directly colonized (in some cases economic like Venezuela) or invaded by the United States on ESPN makes me want to vomit.

    College Basketball’s Championship week, one of the few American sports weeks I still enjoy has been relegated to second fiddle on the network. That tells you all you need to know about ESPN. Heck, this was a network that wouldn’t run Arena Football highlights for years when the league had a network TV contract on NBC, but when ESPN bought a share of ownership in the AFL they began treating every game as “news.”

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