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A bad day on the pitch

Following on from Andrew Delahunty’s great blog post last week, I notice that there is also a crossover of sporting terms into the more ordinary world of work. To take just one example, the national sport of football – there are many phrases commonly used there that we tend to use in the office. Here are some example sentences:

I’ve called this meeting to kick around a few of the ideas about the Crimplene Project.
There are quite a few suggestions in play and I suggest we tackle them in order.
Our managers have queered the pitch by reducing our development budget for the next quarter.
If we cannot compete on a level playing-field with our competitors, it will put us at a disadvantage.
Our latest marketing campaign completely backfired and we ended up scoring an own goal.
This new employee is a great team player.
If we can’t agree on the latest proposal, then we’ll be back to square one.

A game of football can be seen as a ritualized battle, a quest for a goal, full of sublimated violence and complex rules and behaviours. The game has its heroes and villains, just as in real life. Even people who don’t particularly like (watching) football can identify with its purpose and themes, so it seems natural that specific terms from football cross over into everyday life, and, as Andrew illustrates, vice versa. Whatever your goal in life, the journey towards achieving it can be compared to a game like football, where you need talent, effort and fair play to win the day. We like to think that there is justice in our society, that bad behaviour will be shown the red card and that there will be whistle blowers brave enough to expose such lack of sportsmanship.

To the learner of English, an appreciation of sport and its parallels with everyday life are internationally recognized, so feel free to sprinkle your vocabulary with a few appropriate sporting terms. Football would seem a particularly good choice, for wherever you go in the world, there is often someone there who is a Manchester United supporter.

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Beth Penfold

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