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Writing It Up - De File
Does Collecting Make You Feel Dirty?
cbertsch
cbertsch
Writing It Up
It's instructive to compare the story of a World Cup match written with an American audience in mind with the report written for English-speaking football fans who have a firm grasp on the game. Take the two accounts of today's excellent Germany-Poland match. The AP wire story follows the conventions of American sportswriting, as its opening two paragraphs indicate:
Shot after shot was turned away by Poland's goalkeeper and the crossbar. Germany kept firing and got the payoff just in time Wednesday night.

Substitute Oliver Neuville scored on a sliding kick off a brilliant cross from another sub, David Odonkor, in injury time and Germany edged Poland 1-0. The hosts, with a man advantage for the final 15 minutes, controlled the action, only to be frustrated by Artur Borac, who made a handful of spectacular saves.
I generally like this approach, having absorbed it on a near-daily basis since I first learned to read. But it doesn't captivate me when applied to soccer. I keep getting the feeling that the author is translating the narrative of a baseball game into soccer terms instead of writing in a way that captures the latter's special qualities.

The match report, on the other hand, baffles me sometimes at the level of the sentence. It's not as bad as reading the write-up of a cricket test match or a rugby contest, but I still feel like a foreigner within that idiom. It's a welcome sensation, however, since it helps me to get caught up in the excitement of the action in a way that the American version does not:
Poland were reduced to 10 men in the 75th when Sobolewski picked up his second yellow card after halting a Klose breakaway.

Germany, now in complete control, then warmed up for a spectacular finish.

Lahm forced Boruc into a brilliant save following a mazy dribble from the left before the Celtic goalkeeper got a hand to Neuville's shot, after substitute Tim Borowski had set him up.

Germany then twice hit the bar twice in as many seconds - Klose heading a Lahm cross against the woodwork before Ballack again found the frame with his close-range follow-up.

But the substitutions eventually paid for Klinsmann in added time.

Odonkor burst down the right flank, with Neuville - who replaced Podolski in the 71st minute - sweeping his low cross home from close range to spark celebrations among the home crowd.
I never would have used the word "mazy" in a sports context before reading this, but I love the way it pins down the play in question. I'm sure a lot of my delight comes from reading a British writer, but I'll take the happy estrangement regardless.

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Comments
masoo From: masoo Date: June 14th, 2006 09:04 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Back in the early 90s, when it was still hard to find much info online about soccer, about the only place I could go was something called the PA, which I gathered was for the UK like the AP is for us. I'd read match reports for lower division matches, and was always fascinated, for many of the same reasons you mention. "Breaking free after a clumsy challenge by Chester hardman Billy Smith, new boy Connolly found himself free in front of the net, with only giant keeper Morris to beat. He made no mistake. 'I just wanted to show the gaffer that he was right to have confidence in me,' said the Wrexham lad, 'and the support from the Kop was inspiring.'"
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: June 14th, 2006 09:41 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
These reports are terse compared to some of the UK ones I've seen. But they still do a nice job with creating an interesting narrative of the game.
amackey84 From: amackey84 Date: June 15th, 2006 02:05 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Sometimes I think that the european flair for descriptive narrative when writing about soccer has a lot to do with the perceived "flair" at which soccer players swagger, swindle, and navigate on the field. The game is so free-flowing, nuanced and building. I can't help but love reading reports where the authors attempt to match such creativity with a flair of their own.
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