Wednesday, October 19, 2011
While managers regularly suggest that foreign players will 'do their talking on the pitch', not everyone can be like Carlos Tevez - building a reputation as one of English football's most formidable forwards despite failing to grasp the linguistic basics of the country he has inhabited for the past five years. Though Tevez is a notable exception, communication between players on an off the pitch, as well as the coaches and other numerous staff at a club, is vital to building a coherent team unit and a comfortable environment.
With 97 different nationalities having been represented in the Premier League era, it is natural that most clubs now lay on language lessons - a service that many local players could equally benefit from. But learning how to order a steak at a restaurant is slightly different from mastering the tactical intricacies of professional football.
Step forward new app, Football Talk. Created by former Fulham and QPR defender Zesh Rehman, the app is another first to add to a list that also includes being the first British Asian to start a Premier League match. The idea for the app, which translates an array of football terminology and jargon across six different languages, came to Rehman after he moved to Thai Premier League side Muangthong United.
"When I arrived in Thailand, I was the only member of a back five who didn't speak a word of the language," Rehman tells ESPNsoccernet. "I needed to try to make my life easier because early on we were conceding a few goals and I realised that it was going to be a problem. I got the usual apps for languages but there was nothing that I felt I could help me improve out on the pitch so I came up with one of my own. Hopefully now it will help coaches, fans and players too.
"When you're in a new country you need to embrace the environment, learn about the culture and learn the language. The sooner you get your head around it the sooner you will be settled. I've tried to make it a fun and useful way for people to learn the language."
The Football Talk app is still in its infancy, but has massive potential to expand. The database of words and phrases is huge, from 'you're better than that' to 'tell him he has space' - it is a comprehensive guide. The app is easy to navigate, with a search tool and an option to browse the ten sections, which include Parents, Fitness Coach and even Agents - with the latter category containing such gems such as 'can you leave on a free transfer' and the always crucial 'I will make you money'.
A first-hand test of the app was of course necessary and a perfect opportunity arose when I took to a Paris park with my half-French nephews and a football in tow. While not easy to look at your chosen hand-held device while you play, prior revision had taught me 'arrête de fauter' (stop fouling) and 'frapper la cible' (hit the target) - phrases I knew I'd need more often than most. I even got my pronunciation right thanks to the app's talk-back tool. It is important to note that Football Talk is a two-way street, it will not solve players' problems in an instant but will unquestionably help them if they are willing to put in time and practice.
Currently available to translate between English, French, German, Portuguese, Spanish and its original purpose, Thai, Rehman has big plans for Football Talk, which is already being used by a number of high-profile players.
"Robbie Fowler struggled a bit when he came to join me at Muangthong and he was the first person to actually download the app - now he's practicing everyday with his team-mates. My old QPR team-mate Michael Mancienne also has it to help him at Hamburg in Germany now. There's six languages at the moment, but in the near future we will be developing it and hopefully it will become the ultimate app for people in the football industry - be it media, players or coaches - scouting a game or covering a game. It's about making things easier."
It is easy to envisage Rehman's Football Talk becoming an essential tool to help foreign players settle in the world over, and all for just £1.99. Surely you can stretch to that Mr Tevez?
Zesh Rehman's Football Talk app is available to buy from iTunes now.