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FIFA kicks the ball horribly askew

It’s a good thing that clients of Belga Translations take the trouble to have their proofs checked by our revisers before sending them to the printer’s.

It can really irritate me when I see grammatical mistakes, loan translations or unwieldy turns of phrase sometimes very prominently gracing flyers and posters, where whoever was responsible for drafting the text had clearly not been bothered to have the phrasing and spelling checked by someone in the know. A good deal of work may have gone into the concept and design and the poster in question may look really attractive, but it’s a pity that all that creative effort can be negated in one fell swoop by a single glaring linguistic blunder. And as soon as the print run has seen to the dissemination of tens and hundreds of copies, the damage has already been done and the detrimental effects can often be incalculable.

Take, for example, the slogan adorning the Red Devils’ team bus in Brazil. Not only did the FIFA not want to have anything to do with our own proposal (“Tous ensemble, samen sterk”) and gave preference to the empty and banal slogan “Expect the impossible”; they also made a real pig’s ear of the translation. For the rendering of this motto in Dutch, the international football federation could not come up with anything better than “Verwacht je aan het onmogelijke”, a literal and incorrect translation from the French (“Attendez-vous à l’impossible”). A simple phone call to Belga Translations is all it would have taken for Mr Blatter to have averted disaster. My colleague Peter, who always enjoys giving his clients advice when they come up against a linguistic problem of any kind, would have told him that the correct expression in Dutch is “Verwacht het onmogelijke”

There may be some doubt as to whether Wilmots & Co. lost any sleep over this less than fine slogan. However, it is a source of satisfaction to me that our own football federation is very far from pleased with FIFA’s high-handed approach and has made very clear its displeasure regarding the matter.


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