Post-game interviews rarely yield surprises. Players go through their book of sports clichés and give a few quick answers (“We gave it all on the field,” “Soccer is like that,” “We created the best chances, but luck wasn’t on our side”) before leaving the stadium. But after France’s victory over Peru on Tuesday, the Bleus midfielder Paul Pogba turned a lot of heads by answering a reporter’s question about Peru in near perfect Spanish.
ESPN reporter Franco Lostaunau asked Pogba in English “A word for Peru?” The Frenchman took a second to collect his thoughts and then gave an eloquent answer in fluent Spanish, with an accent that many would envy.
It’s not uncommon for soccer players to learn more than one language – after all, their career takes them to different countries, and they play with teammates from all over the world. In soccer, like many other team sports, communication is key. What’s impressive is that Pogba learned Spanish without having ever played in a Spanish-speaking country or taking classes.
In an interview with the Argentinian sports channel T&C Sports back in March, Pogba explained, again in clear Spanish, that he loves languages (he also speaks English and Italian, apart from his native French), and that he always had wanted to learn. When he had Spanish speaking teammates, he saw the perfect opportunity. “Listening to people. My friends (Paulo) Dybala, Juan (Cuadrado) or Lito (Carlos Tevez) and listening here and there, it sticks. I told them: ‘Speak Spanish, only Spanish. I want to understand.’”
But for many, Pogba’s post-game words were the first time they’ve heard him talk in Spanish, and it surprised them:
Pogba is often unfairly criticized for his haircuts, celebrations, and social media posts. But his multi-lingual skills may have just gained him more respect and some new fans.