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Zabivaka™ ‘the one who scores’ in Russian, is the official mascot for the 21st FIFA Чемпионат мира (World Cup). And yes – it’s a wolf! But a friendly one who will entertain the crowds at the stadiums as Russia’s ambassador for football. At least, we’re assured he’s friendly…

The referee will blow his whistle at the opening match between Russia and Saudi Arabia at the Luzhniki Stadium on June 14, 2018 – just a few weeks away. This will be the first World Cup held in Europe since the 2006 tournament in Germany, and the first ever to be held in Eastern Europe. FIFA has four official languages: German, English, Spanish and French, but there will be many more languages used in the tournament as a total of 32 national teams will compete. There will be 16 languages used across the 32 Twitter accounts, allowing fans from across the globe to follow the action in their native tongue. However, when passions are raised mistakes can happen.

The Cyrillic alphabet and the Russian language can cause all sorts of problems for hapless fans and even for well-meaning politicians. When she was U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in an effort to ‘reset’ strained relations with Russia, presented Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov with a red button with the English word ‘Reset’ and the Russian word ‘перегрузка’. Unfortunately, thanks to a translation mistake, the button actually said ‘Overload’ – not exactly the intended message. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, poor Sergei later found his surname translated to ‘sad little horse’ by Google Translate.

Only about 5% of the Russian population speaks or even understands English so it’s easy to see how costly – even dangerous – a translation mistake could be for fans visiting Russia for the World Cup.

The Russian team’s coach Stanislav Cherchesov advises that ‘the most important thing is to come to Russia with an open heart and try to understand our country and the places you’re visiting. As we say in Russia, better to see something once than to hear about it a hundred times.’

Nice one Stanislav – but we’d add that it’s also important to make sure you’re properly understood. Accutranslate has over 15 years’ experience of providing sports translation for clubs, players, staff, and their families. Contact Accutranslate! 0800 466 1335 or info@accutranslate.co.uk