“Belgium is a strange country,” said Thibaut Courtois. We are Flemish, French and German at the same time. It’s not easy being both at the same time, but I think we’re pretty good at it anyway – he added. Courtois might get used to it. Since childhood, he has been working in a country divided into two parts. The area of division is clearly defined by language, and from a broader perspective also by history and culture. The Flemish North has its own schools, media, and political parties, and South Walloon has its own schools. Belgians from the north speak Dutch (constituting about 57% of the country’s population), and from the south speak French (about 40%). There is also a German-speaking part and a group of immigrants who do not speak any of these languages. How does this affect the national teams? disputes. Paradoxically, it might be a good idea for a Spaniard to become her coach in 2016 Roberto Martinez. As the players themselves say, an English-speaking coach allows you to avoid intercultural tensions and everyone can focus on football.
The captain does not speak the second mother tongue. “I am really sorry”
To understand how difficult and sometimes absurd this cultural and social situation is, it suffices to recall the concept of “language conflict”, which still operates in Dutch today. And that fight It was happening a long time ago. He always evoked intense emotions. For example, the 2006 Act, according to which the government of one of the regions of Flanders introduced a provision in the Housing Code obliging the owner to use the Dutch language or at least “demonstrate a willingness to learn it”. The Walloon complaint in this regard was submitted to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
Currently, French is the compulsory second language in schools in Flanders. But in Wallonia, you do not need to learn Dutch. The data shows that it was chosen by students only in third place. This makes the Walloons speak Dutch poorly and the Flemish a little better at French. This has increased their resentment to the point that they are trying more to communicate with their compatriots from the south. This regularity is also evident in the representation of football. The latter is somewhat split in half into North and South players, with the former enjoying a slight advantage.
Among the players from Flanders is Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu LukakuJan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld, Dries Mertens, and among those from Wallonia we have Axel Witsel, Thomas Meunier, or Eden Hazard. There are also players like Thibaut Courtois, who was born in Flemish Limburg, but his father is from Wallonia, so he knows multiculturalism since he was a child. The fact that Belgium has three official languages raises a lot of problems in football. Before the Martinez era, the press conferences of the Belgian national team were one of the longest, and the Federation had problems with it. They were held in Dutch and French, but not with simultaneous interpretation, but with successive interpretation. In addition, it was necessary to bring together journalists (and sometimes even now) so that the French-speaking football player did not receive questions from his compatriots, which he would not understand, because such questions would be asked in Dutch, for example. There was also a moment when the Belgians organized two press conferences. One in Dutch and one in French, each with different players and slightly different topics.
There are also a few players in the current Belgian squad whose knowledge of Dutch ends with “goedemorgen” and “vaarwel” (good morning and bye). Among the most famous are Axel Witsel and Eden Hazard. The latter is the captain of the Belgian national team.
– I don’t speak Dutch at all and that’s one of the things I regret, especially as a captain. I always wanted to learn even the basics of the language, but I didn’t have time for that,” he told Belgian media. He admitted that his fellow Flanders had a better understanding of French, so he often communicated with them in French. Well, unless the group is bigger and there is coaching staff in between, then everyone speaks English. Shakespeare’s language becomes a solution to potential problems in the Belgian toilet. Problems that there may be more to come.
With English, no one will accuse you of “forcing one language at the expense of another”
According to a 2015 study by the Free University of Brussels, 70 percent. The graduates indicated that their level of knowledge of the Dutch language would not allow them to work in the Dutch language. As Belgian sociologists have noted, Walloons and Flemish people increasingly speak English with each other.
English also became the language of the Belgian national team. It is not uncommon for a foreign coach to lead the staff, communicate and give briefings in English. Recently, it was the same in the Polish team during Paulo Sousa’s tenure. Although everything that happens around the Belgian team may surprise the Poles a little. In Polish reality, it was hard to imagine Robert Lewandowski advising Kacper Kozłowski in English in a training room or hotel corridor.
In the Belgian national team, Hazard speaking to Vertonghen in English would not surprise anyone from Belgium. The competitors may be more surprising. In any case, the topic of communication in the “Red Devils” team was taken up by the BBC on the occasion of the 2018 World Cup. Perhaps because during the match against the British, journalists or players from the UK were surprised that their opponents spoke to each other in English (they won the second match: and took third place).
“Speaking English is safe for them,” commented Susanne Vanhoemmessen, the BBC’s Belgian journalist. She explained – no one is accused of creating a language barrier or imposing one language at the expense of another.
Besides, the Belgian Federation is also communicated in English. All posts on social networks are written in this language. Their YouTube videos are described in English as well. What is noteworthy is the fact that a lot of stuff is made for music, you don’t hear a lot of interactions between players there. However, the interchangeability of languages can be seen when King Philip visited the cadre at his base in Tubize, and Hazard was the guide for the cadre meeting.
They can sometimes have trouble with language mixing too fansBecause when the Flemish meets the Walloon in the stands or fan zones, what chants and slogans will they start chanting? Maybe “Come, Belgium!”. English signage already has.
Belgian philosopher and economist Philippe van Barij once explained on Radio La Premiere that “what happens in and around representation is a reflection of the image of society”. A society that does not have a single language of its own, so English is used more often in mutual communication. This language has already become the second most spoken language in three Belgian regions.
– This is not a betrayal of Belgium, but it is normal. Important to this nation in the context of the future and democracy. Because democracy would not be able to function if people could not communicate with each other – Van Baraj argued.
Neutral coach and Belgian settler
In this scene, it would seem that coach Roberto Martinez, who has spent several years as a footballer and coach in the British Isles and speaks fluent English, may be a catalyst for potential clashes in the national team. Belgium. Claims that surfaced in the media in 2016 at the start of his employment with the staff – that he did not speak any official language of the country – could be a plus.
– I am a neutral person for the Belgians. I understand their diversity and the difficulty of using three languages, and good communication is crucial in the dressing room. However, not speaking their language does not affect my decisions, I choose what is good for Belgian football. The coach said I speak Spanish and English, but I have ambitions to understand the Belgians. He also revealed that he was bending over the Dutchman.
Perhaps it would be better if he did not catch him too quickly, because then the French part of the Belgian locker room could be infected. So far, the English language has a strong position there, even if it is treated as a “Belgian settlement”. This mantra has been used in society for decades (“plug bargaining”). The Belgians call themselves masters of settlement, and the nearly two-hundred-year history of the Flemish Walloon after independence proves this.
Latest sports consequences Belgium showed that the Tower of Babel did not prevent them from becoming one of the best teams in the world, and is currently ranked second in the FIFA rankings. The Belgians who play for Martinez wear the same devilish red shirts and Despite the weaker start in the competition, They are still among the favorites to win in the fourth group of the first division The League of Nations.
This is an updated version of the text that appeared on Sport.pl on July 2, 2021, available over here.
“The uncomfortably humble TV fan. Twitter generalist. Extreme music enthusiast. Internet connoisseur. Social media lover.”