Interpreters on the Sidelines at the World Cup

The World Cup is still the center of attention for so many of us around the world, capturing our attention on a daily basis. Some teams have had to suffer the unpleasant early trip home already while others have remained to fight it out and earn the right to hoist the coveted Jules Rimet trophy in the air after the World Cup final on July 11.

The tension rises with each round; only the best teams remain. The increased importance and energy means that there is a greater likelihood of fouls being committed. In certain cases, such as the upcoming match between Argentina and Mexico, the two teams speak the same language. When this is not the case, there can be a common language between the players or they may have to rely on the “international language” of well-known gestures.

FIFA-certified referees are required to speak English, according to FIFA’s website, which would imply an impulse, if not an obligation, of the players, coaches, and medical staff of each country to at least familiarize themselves with the language in order to communicate with the one man who can decide the outcome of the match and the fortunes of an entire country’s team in one moment. Yet shouldn’t FIFA be required to make an interpreter available on the sideline for intervention in key moments? Clear communication could have done a lot to appease the situation in the recent Slovenia – United States match when Malian referee Koman Coulibaly never clearly stated his reason for disallowing a would-be winning goal for the American team.

The ideal situation would be to have a brief language interpretation session in moments such as that one or in others where a yellow or red card has been issued for reasons that are not entirely clear to the side receiving it. In a global event of such economic and emotional importance, absolute transparency should be an essential element in order to ensure the competitive fairness and that players and coaches are able to adapt their strategies to the referee’s decisions, with a full understanding of the justification.

(Spanish version: