Women’s World Cup Day 4 Preliminary Report: ESPN Finally Messes Up

I would normally wait until both matches are finished before I write anything, but this bothers me so much that I feel it deserves its own post.

I have been very impressed with ESPN thus far, but without a doubt my least favorite commentary team is Beth Mowins and Cat Whitehill.  First Whitehill repeatedly (as in five or six times that I am aware of) compared Japan to Barcelona even though they are nothing alike other than the fact that both teams field short players and pass a lot.  I have not been particularly impressed with either with the tactical analysis or the color commentary, but (the Barcelona comparison aside) nothing really bothered me to the point where I felt like I needed to complain.  Until today.  All throughout the extremely entertaining match between former powerhouse Norway and World Cup newcomer Equatorial Guinea, both Mowins and Whitehill repeated mispronounced the name of equatoguinean star Genoveva Añonma.  Every time they mentioned her name–and it was often because she was undoubtedly the player of the match–they said “a-NAHN-ma.”

(Note:  To be fair, it’s not just Mowins and Whitehill, it’s everyone at ESPN, but Mowins and Whitehill called the match, which means they said it most often.)

Equatorial Guinea was a former colony of Spain way back when the Europeans openly believed that they had the right to carve up the rest of the world.  Like with the Ivory Coast and France or Cape Verde and Portugal, there is a strong Spanish connection and influence in Equatorial Guinea.  Spanish is one of the official languages of Equatorial Guinea.  In Spanish, an “ñ” is actual pronounced “ny” as in mañana.  Therefore, Genoveva Añonma’s last name is not “a-NAHN-ma,” but rather “an-YONE-ma,” (note the long “o”) at least according to the name on the back of her jersey.

Look, we all mispronounce names, especially when those names are from a different culture than our own.  Even commentators make mistakes, and the occasional one can be forgiven.  But I don’t care if Equatorial Guinea came out of nowhere.  It’s called research, and if you call a match, it is your job to get names as correct as possible.  If you cannot pronounce the name of a star player correctly, you are not doing your job.

I’m not asking much.  Spanish is a very easy language to pronounce.  It’s even easier than English, which is also is relatively easy in the grand scheme of things.  We’re not talking about really difficult languages for non-native speaker that they have over a hundred different phonemes that exist nowhere else.  I’m not even asking for proper pronunciation of deceptively tricky languages (for English speakers) like Brazilian Portuguese which uses the same letters as English but with the occasionally different pronunciation–the transliteration of “Ronaldinho” is approximately “Honalgeenyo.”  (For fun, here is Tim Vickery’s demonstration of a Brazilians transliteration of English player Jonathan Woodgate.)

Now, of course I could be wrong.  Obviously language pronunciations differ from country to country and even in Spain there are regional variations, but I suspect that ESPN got lazy, and did not think any viewers would actually look at the player’s jersey, and think “Wait a second, that’s not right.”

This ends my rant.  Match reports to follow shortly.