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The Week in Germany - June 18, 2021
June 18, 2021
German soccer terminology

Dear TWIG Readers,

If you're a soccer fan, you may be watching the UEFA European Football Championship right now. This competition, which determines the continental soccer champion of Europe, has been held every four years since 1960 - with the exception of 2020. Last year's championship was postponed due to the pandemic, but it is currently in full swing!

Even though Germany lost its first match to France this week, we still wanted to take this opportunity to clue you in on some German soccer terminology to get you ready for the weekend!

Schwalbenkönig ("King of the swallow birds")

The German word "Schwalbe" means "swallow" and König means "king". So if you translate this term literally, it means "king of the swallows". But of course, this term doesn't actually refer to the king of a flock of birds. It's a metaphor used in soccer to define a player who repeatedly dives to the ground (like a swallow does in the wild) and acts as though he had been fouled by another player, even if the opponent only touched him slightly or not at all. A "Schwalbenkönig" overreacts in order to obtain a penalty or free kick. Sometimes, a "Schwalbenkönig" will get away with his act. Other times, he will gain a reputation.


Schiri (a short form of Schiedsrichter - "referee")
 
Although it may sound more like a cute summer cocktail, a Saharan desert wind or a new sub-species of exotic pet gerbil, a "Schiri" is actually a very serious guy who takes care of some pretty serious business - attempting to create a level playing field when world-class soccer players meet their matches on game day. "Schiri" is short for "Schiedsrichter", or referee. All eyes in Europe are on the "Schiri" when he reprimands a player on the pitch (or field) during games played between national teams. This nickname for the most important man on the pitch was first officially recorded in German dictionaries in 1961.
 

Abseitsfalle ("offsides trap")
 
In German, the word "Abseits" means "offside" and Falle means "trap." "Abseitsfalle" therefore means "offside trap", and refers to a tactic used primarily by a team's defense to push an opposing player into offside. In some cases, defenders work together to push an opposing player into the offside, therefore winning a free kick for themselves. But as you can imagine, this is a risky maneuver. In order to successfully push an attacker into an "Abseitsfalle", defenders must move forward at the same time while the attacker is about to receive the ball. A successful "Abseitsfalle" has the potential to prevent a goal and it can make a game much more interesting to watch – especially in a European championship.

Bananenflankenkönig ("Banana-cross-king")

"Flanke" means "cross" or "flank". This is a soccer technique in which a player delivers the ball from one flank or wing of the field to the opponent's penalty area. A "Bananenflanke" is an even more specific term: this word describes a cross in which the ball travels across the field at a crooked angle. The path of the ball is crooked like a banana; thus the term "banana cross". Executing a perfect "Bananenflanke" takes a high level of skill - and the master of such a skill is sometimes called a "Bananenflankenkönig" (king of the "Bananenflanke"). 

Notbremse ("emergency brake")
 
When it comes to soccer, the word "Notbremse" is used to describe a foul that a player may commit in order to prevent a goal from being scored by the opposing team. A player may, for example, throw himself in front of an opponent, causing a collision that would prevent the opponent from scoring - and possibly even cause an injury. This, however, is a risky decision: if a player is caught doing it, he may be punished with a red card, which means he will not be able to play for the rest of that game or even the following game. That could ultimately hurt the team as a whole. Attempting a "Notbremse" is perhaps not always the wisest decision, but it may be helpful in cases where the opponent is winning or both teams are tied, and any additional goal from the opponent could change the outcome of the game.
 
 
Now that you have some new soccer terminology up your sleeve, you can head out and watch the Germany vs. Portugal game on Saturday at 12 pm. We watched the previous games with our French friends at Wunder Garten in Washington, D.C., and we're happy to report that they'll be airing the next one as well! So if you're in the area, head over to Wunder Garten DC at 1101 First St NE, grab a beer and enjoy the game!
 

Nicole Glass

Editor, The Week in Germany
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