The joys of Arab and Latin American football commentators

Aafter one of the biggest football concussions in history on Tuesday – when Saudi Arabia emerged as victorious underdogs in a match against World Cup favorites Argentina – an unlikely star emerged. It wasn’t the kingdom’s star striker, Saleh Alshehri, who scored the team’s first goal; nor did Salem Aldawsari, who put Saudi Arabia ahead of Argentina to secure the eventual 2-1 victory. Instead it was the booming voice of Khalil al-Balushi– an Omani sports commentator working for Al-Kass Sports, a Qatari broadcaster – who stole the show.

When Aldawsari scored, Al-Boulashi now viral Arabic monologue invoked the language of the epic poem. According to a translation from an Arabic-speaking fan, al-Balushi roared “write this down in history” and exclaimed “Allah, Allah, Allah” over and over in deafening disbelief.

Al-Balushi added: “Here at Lusail Stadium! You are making history! What a moment. Madness in its purest definition. I speak from the inside of my heart. With the emotions of my heart. A proud Arab. And with that second goal, a beautiful goal, a majestic goal. YES… Impossible is not a word that exists in the Saudi and Arabic vocabulary.” He went on to describe Aldawsari’s goal as a “thunderbolt” strike before calling his first name, Salem, over and over.

This type of impassioned commentary is well known in the Arab world, but rarely seen by foreign audiences. Some on social media said the English language comments looked a little pale in comparison.

Arabs have a particularly close connection with football – which is the most popular sport in the region and involves a lot national leagues. As such, it is colloquially called a second religion for many. The game is played socially among both children and adults, with increased female participation leading to the former Women’s Arab Cup in 2021. This love of football has led a number of Arab commentators, including al-Boulashi, Jordan’s Kahled al-Ghul and Saudi Fahd Al-Otaib to become widely known persons.

But Arab commentators are hardly alone in their palpable passion for football. Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking commentators are also considered football monomaniacs. Latin American commentators, like Arab ones, are particularly notorious for shouting “goal” with gusto.

According to on New York Times, the South American phenomenon dates back to 1946, 14 years after the first live soccer broadcast on Brazilian radio. Sao Paulo’s spokesman Rebelo Junior ecstatically celebrated a goal by letting out an elongated “gooool” – the Spanish and Portuguese word for goal – until he ran out of breath.

Andres Cantor, an Argentinian American sports reporter who covered the 2018 FIFA World Cup, was named “Mr. Gol” for his energetic outbursts. Commentator said to The Washington Post he never tires of being recognized for the way he screams “goal” and his storytelling style.

“Obviously, it brings a lot of passion,” Cantor said. “The way the ‘Goal’ shout works has a lot to do with several factors, but mainly the importance of the goal.”

Cantor added that the word should contain a sustained “ooooo” sound, but reminded people that he didn’t invent the oral tradition — he was simply popularizing the Latin American expression of love for soccer.

Cantor is not wrong. When Argentina scored their second winning goal against Nigeria at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, an Argentinian commentator was reduced to tears during a live broadcast. Similarly, Egyptian captain Mohamed Salah scored a penalty against Congo it led his nation to the 2018 World Cup and brought an Arabic-speaking commentator to tears. If the emotions of Arab and Latin American commentators remain so high this year, it’s safe to say that the world is set to witness a World Cup that will continue to make headlines in unexpected ways.

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Write to Armani Syed c [email protected].

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