This is Elliot Turner’s first piece for The Shin Guardian. He didn’t hold back.
For TSG’s Official USA vs. Guatemala, click here.
ET: I prepared this for our US national team, but since Jose Torres and Herculez Gomez are now out there every game, their “game” should suffice.
Oh hello there, you sexy cosmopolitan US national team soccer fan, you.
Every World Cup qualifying, you brush up on your Central American geography and then rock the Trivial Pursuit.
Everybody wants you on your team, but there’s a problem: there’s only one you. You watch re-runs of the National Geographic Bee and mouth the answers before the snotty nine year-olds can even think to blink. You basically rule the world, but you suffer from a lingering doubt.
Your Achille’s heel?
Limited language proficiency. You ask yourself: when at an away game in some far away place, like Pasadena’s Estadio Rose Bowl, are all those Spanish-speakers dissing you, your mother, or both?
Luckily, I am here to help.
As everybody’s favorite white chicano–that’s US citizen of Mexican descent for your TP game–whom you used to make highly questionable Mexican jokes in front of, I possess a wealth of knowledge. Callejero Spanish is my native tongue.
I’m also hitched to a Central American gal, and today’s lesson will teach you just how, when, and if those Guatemaltecos are dissing you or just yapping about. I’ll teach you some basic terms that are easily confused. Think of it as soccer Spanish meets a verbal self-defense class and I am your G.I. Jose.
The first common error involves the term puta.
This word basically translates to skank or prostitute. However, in soccer, a common term for a forward is the similar sounding punta.
Notice the “n” all tucked away in there?
When spoken, the two terms are tough to distinguish. Punta literally means point, and it makes sense to describe a forward since they are the focal point of the attack.
For an attacking midfielder, you may say media punta (half point). For a withdrawn striker, some saysegunda punta. Thus, don’t hear “pu” and “ta” and assume some Guatemalan is insulting your female relatives. They may just be valiantly willing on Carlos Ruiz.
The next term is a classic Guatemaltquisimo: hueco.
Hueco literally means “gap” or “hollow space.” In soccer terms, huecocan be literally translated as “split” or “slide rule pass.” It is either the narrow space between defenders or a defense-splitting pass.
When a forward wants a ball passed to space, he’ll often shout “hueco” at his teammates.
Here’s the problem: huecohas a pretty negative and offensive meaning in Guatemala. Do not use that word to anybody ever. That’s the last time I’ll write it and it will be deleted from these archives after game day tomorrow.
It would be roughly translated as a negative English term for a certain sexual personal preference that I don’t care to repeat. Thus, if you hear your Chapin buddies shouting “Hueco” they are either begging for a nice Hollywood pass or using an outdated insult which I identified above and will no longer speak about.
Either way, don’t sweat it. No Guatemalan midfielder has the vision for that nice a pass, and, in the alternative, you could still probably be called worse. Shocking.
Another point of confusion is the word bola.
Normally, bola means “ball.”
After all bola kinda sounds like ball. Makes sense.
Some more common synonyms in chicanolandia include pelota and balon.
Here’s the sticking point: bola does not mean ball in Guatemala. Rather, it means “rumor.” Thus, your Guatemalan acquaintances may be calling you a chatty Kathy and not talking about the soccer game.
Instead of saying bola, they like to say chibola. If your favorite Mexican Univision announcer was Guatemalan, he would shout “la chibola no rueda mas” at the end of games.
Lastly, one term manages to confuse all folks. I speak of huevo. The word literally means eggs, but can also mean “family jewels.” However, it can also mean lazy. The term huevon means giant egg, but is used to call somebody a big lazy oaf. In Guatemala, huevear is the verb for “to be lazy.”
Nevertheless, huevito does not mean “little lazy dude.” Rather, in soccer, it’s a very common term for a nutmeg. Why? Well, if huevo means family jewels….you can figure it out. Thus, at soccer games, you will probably hear both terms. When Gooch starts huffing and puffing after twenty minutes, shouts of huevon will cascade around the stadium. Conversely, when Donovan nutmegs a defender, expect shouts of huevito followed by laughter. Not at your expense, of course.
So there you have it – not everybody who speaks Spanish is secretly insulting you at soccer games or are they?