You’re Saying it Wrong! Sporting Lisbon, Inter Milan, and Other Incorrect Names That Drive Football Fans Crazy

27 08 2009

Football is a global sport. Which is one of the reasons we love it so much. But that international appeal is also the reason for many many misunderstandings, leading to football teams being incorrectly labeled outside their native land. And this can drive fans of those teams crazy.

I’ve been on both ends of this. I’ve been the fool that irritated both sides of a city by saying “Inter Milan” and “AC Milan”, and I’ve been the angry man looking for something to punch when an ESPN commentator referred to my team as “the Wolverhampton Wolves”.

So this post listing the most common mistakes isn’t intended to suggest that I know any better, or that any one person or nationality is any more or less guilty than any other. Think of it instead as a resource, designed to help football fans of the world communicate a little easier. And of course we welcome your additions and/or corrections to the list in the comments…


Mistakes are in bold, explanation and correct name follows.


“Sporting Lisbon”
Apparently this drives people in Portugal crazy. The team is indeed based in Lisbon, but the actual name is Sporting Clube de Portugal. Either Sporting or Sporting CP works for short.

“Chelsea London”
This seems to be mostly a German mistake, appending the team name with the city of London. Great example here, where they do it to Arsenal too. It’s harmless of course, but it looks and sounds weird to unaccustomed eyes and ears. It also feels like a little too much information. If you’re going to say Chelsea London, why not go all the way and call them “Chelsea London England Europe Earth”?

“SS Lazio Roma”
The team is from the city of Roma, but the team name is SS Lazio. So another one based on adding the team’s location, only this one isn’t so harmless. Lazio and Roma are deadly enemies, so conflating both team names into one is every Lazio and Roma fans worst team-merger nightmare come true.

“Inter Milan”
The full name is Football Club Internazionale Milano. But the common name is Internazionale, or Inter for short. If you want an Inter fan to think you’re a moron, go ahead and call the team “Inter Milan”. It’s a little more accurate than the Sporting Lisbon mistake (because at least “Milano” is in the full team name) but they’ll still look at you with pity. Save yourself two syllables and stick with just “Inter”.

“AC Milan”
This is a little more borderline. It’s technically correct, as the full team name is Associazione Calcio Milan, or A.C. Milan for short. But think of it this way… do you always say the full Manchester United F.C.? Do you call Alex Ferguson’s team “FC” for short. Of course you don’t. So better to call this team Milan.

“The MLS”
We’ve all done this one. Or if not then we’ve co-hosted a radio show with someone who does. Ahem. MLS stands for Major League Soccer. So if you use the definitive article in front of it, then you’re saying “the Major League Soccer”. So stick with simply saying “MLS”. But even if you say “the MLS” then at least you can feel superior to the fools who say “MSL”.

“Bayern Leverkusen”
It’s not. It’s actually Bayer 04 Leverkusen, the Bayer being the famous aspirin selling pharmaceutical manufacturer which founded the club in 1904. Obviously the Bayer-Bayern mistake arises from confusion with Bayern Munich. Which is a whole other issue…

Questionable? Bayern Munich
This seems wrong to me. The actual team name, in German, is FC Bayern München. But if we’re going to translate the München part into English as “Munich”, then shouldn’t we also translate Bayern into English as “Bavaria”, giving us “Bavaria Munich”?

The name we now use in English is half German (Bayern) and half English (Munich) and yet everyone seems to accept it as OK. Can any German football fans out there solve this question?

“Real Madrid”
Everyone spells it correctly as “Real Madrid”. But not everyone says it correctly. In fact, far too many people (myself included) often forget that “Real” is Spanish for “royal” and so should be pronounced “Ray-al” “Reh-al” (thanks Malin!)

“Barca”
Another one I’m guilty of. Obviously the full team name is Fútbol Club Barcelona. And the familiar abbreviation is Barça, with that nice accent thinhy on the fourth letter there. But that often gets lazily typed out as “Barca”. Which apparently means “boat” in Catalan.


Wondering why “EPL” isn’t on this list? Read this post for an explanation: Why It’s OK to Say EPL

Know of any more? Or have corrections/clarifications for anything above? Let us know in the comments…

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