What language is spoken on field at the World Cup?

What language is spoken when refs talk to players? Is they’re a standard?

For the world cup, referees are required to be proficient in English. But they don’t actually have to be able to talk to the players. They use whistles, hand signals, cards, etc, to make calls. Those can be understood by the players without talking to the ref.

As a side note, soccer’s iconic red/yellow cards were introduced after an incident in the 1966 World Cup when a German referee (who spoke little English and no Spanish) was in charge of a game between England and Argentina.
Apparently an interpreter was required to get one Argentine player to leave the pitch after being sent off and some English players only realised they’d been cautioned when they read the match report in the newspaper the next day.

Moved to the Game Room, and title edited to fix type.

General Questions Moderator

As for what language is spoken… well, that depends on the situation. During the US World Cup, Bulgarian Hristo Stoichov caused gales of laughter when he could clearly be lip-read cursing in Spanish (we’re definitely a bad influence); in an Uruguay-Argentina or a Germany-Austria I expect there won’t be much English spoken between the players. The language in which the match reports are written is English, but it is also not necessarily the language which was used during actual conversation.


I believe there are four official languages of FIFA. English, Spanish, German, and French. The language(s) used in internal referee-only communication could be any language, not necessarily one of the above.

The language used on the field with players is whatever works best. It could be Swahili. But if it’s an international match and just one guy doesn’t speak Swahili, the ref is going to need to be able to communicate with him in one of the above languages. But if that player, the insular Finnish goalkeeper, can’t communicate in any of the four official languages, that’s his problem and he certainly couldn’t be the team captain.

[More guesswork :frowning: ] I think full International Referees (sometimes called FIFA Referees) are supposed to have at least a basic understanding of all four languages and fluency in at least one, maybe two. For example, if you’re a referee in CONCACAF (North and Central America + Caribbean) you’re going to be expected to be completely fluent in either Spanish or English and pretty damn conversant in the other, as well as some French.

A Canadian ref, for example, might exceed the official guidelines for International Referee and thus qualify for the patch (maybe she’s fluent in English, French, and German) but she wouldn’t get any CONCACAF international matches if she couldn’t speak Spanish.

But ISTM that in reality, the above would be highly unlikely or close to impossible because while the Canadian can rise to a certain level needing only English and decent French, to attain International Referee status you are going to need higher and higher level match experience and in North/Central America that means CONCACAF and that means Spanish.

These are just my thoughts on this. And now, the more I think about it, the more I think that International Referees are just expected to be polyglots and have proficiency is all four languages.
ETA: Yeah… this post has all the veracity of a Yahoo Answers post. Sorry

Thank you for that. I entered it on my phone, and was subject to awful autocorrect incorrections. Including “they’re” when it should be “there.” :frowning:

True, but in today’s final I did see protestations by players to the ref, although it seemed that the ref responded mostly with hand signals. And yellow cards :slight_smile:

Never underestimate situational deafness or lack of fluency. :smiley: You see similar reactions in many US pro-sports leagues where language is generally a small issue.

The visual signals are officially codified and must be seen clearly by the public, including people writing official reports on the match. Verbal language can’t be understood by someone sitting on the bleachers.

Source: my Grandpa From Hell, AKA the referee with the longest active serving history in Spain and possibly the world (officially 70 years but in reality a bit less than that; most of it evaluating refs from the bleachers).

“I’m having trouble understanding that player, but from the gesture he’s making, he appears to think that I’m … No. 1? Yeah, he thinks I’m the No. 1 referee! Boy, that’s really gratifying, you know? I work hard at this.”