soccer/football usages

Frank Abate abatefr at EARTHLINK.NET
Sat Oct 19 09:53:53 UTC 2002

Doug W said:

As for "the team": I would (myself) tend to refer to a soccer/football team
in the singular in most contexts, but apparently the plural is more common
(but not universal) with team names, e.g., "Manchester United were formed
in 1878", "Brazil are the most popular team". I was struck by the
prevalence of such usage during the World Cup news coverage recently.

This (_team_ as plural) is the case for soccer/"football" (Brit.), owing to
the influence of the British mode of using certain group terms as
collectives, construed as plurals.

Esp. in the broadcasting of soccer, Brit. influence is apparent.  My guess
is that American sports announcers who do this learned it from listening to
Toby Charles, who did the broadcasts of the German Football League
(Bundesliga) for many years on TV (PBS, I think).  I believe Charles was
British, and if not so, he certainly learned his English from Brits.  He had
the expected British tendencies, with collectives-as-plurals and
zero-as-nil, etc.

At ESPN, the sportscasters now report soccer scores of zero (0) as "nil",
following the Brit. mode.  I think they do this tongue-in-cheek, but they do

Noteworthy also is that in the US we often say "soccer team" and "soccer
game", but that in UK "football club/side" (sometimes "team") and "football
match" are more usual.  In fact, I don't think "football game" is allowable
in Brit. Eng. (at least, not for a "soccer game"), but I may be wrong.
Maybe Michael Q can chime in on this.

This may be one of the only areas in which British English has demonstrably
influenced American English, with real evidence to show it.

Frank Abate

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