Japanese Football Commentators

Well, the World Cup is upon us once more. You’ve probably noticed. It’s very entertaining so far and I’ve enjoyed watching as many games as I can. I’ve been doing so while listening to the Japanese commentary of the matches and I have learned a great deal. I now know the heights of most non-Japanese players and understand that Japanese referees and players alike only warrant the mildest of criticism for any errors made.

Perhaps my sleep deprived state is a causal factor, but there is one area of Japanese commentary that leaves me in some confusion: conventions regarding players’ names. I don’t mean mispronunciation of non-Japanese players’ names. That is to be expected and is certainly no worse than English attempts at Japanese names (although the insistence that Italy’s Ballotelli really should be Ballotetti, is still somewhat puzzling). No, what baffles me more is how the commentators decide what name to use for each player. You see, usually they go with the accepted norm, the standard last name of an individual. But why, I wonder, do Japanese commentators almost uniformly call the Spanish player Cesc Fabregas by his first name, Cesc? What’s so special about him? They don’t talk about Wayne or Lionel or Luis. They don’t refer to Fernando Torres as Fernando. In fact, they don’t refer to him as Torres either, for he is another anomaly whereby his first and last names come as a set: Fernandotorres. I am genuinely curious as to why this is so but can find no answers. I shall ponder some more, but in the meantime I must get to bed. I am getting up early tomorrow to watch England take on Uruguay. I wonder if Daniel will score again?

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4 Responses to Japanese Football Commentators

  1. Trevor says:


    Just in case you’re still wondering (it’s been a while and no one relied) why they mention Cesc Fabregas by his first name….is well because everyone, even here in London (where he once graced our stadium before he went off to the dark side via barca), calls him by his first name. I guess the language of football crosses all cultural and intercontinental boundaries.

    And unfortunately Daniel never scored again.

    Anyhow, I have just discovered your blog and thoroughly enjoying the back catalogue of past posts.

    Many regards,


    • Glad you like the blog. Thank you.
      I’m not sure about the Fabregas thing, though. I watch the Premier League games here with the English commentary and (while playing for Chelsea, at least) they seem to call him Fabregas. Perhaps he was called Cesc when he first started out as a player and that just stuck. Who knows?

      • Trevor says:

        True, although I hear ‘cesc’ more often than not, certainly more so than ‘chicharito’ for example. Anyhow it’s still pains me to see him in that blue shirt.

        Btw have you ever been to a football game in Japan, I was meant to go to one recently but couldn’t make it in the end (went to suzuka for the F1 which certainly made up for the disappointment). I always wondered what it would be like compared to here in England.

      • I’ve been to a few J-league games, but not for a good few years. They were okay – wasn’t so different from home. Not as much funny banter to be heard on the terraces (or maybe I just couldn’t understand it!)

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