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Tycoon, mind your language
- With stakes in football club, time for Mittal to learn the right noises

London, Dec. 22: Lakshmi Mittal ought to be “over the moon” now that he has picked up a 20 per cent stake in a well-known English football club for a bargain price ó and his rivals correspondingly “gutted”.

With this new investment, the Mittal family ó his son-in-law Amit Bhatia will represent him on the board of Queens Park Rangers (QPR) ó will have to learn the language of English football, especially the game’s distinctive slang.

Even after a defeat, he will have to defend his players by insisting the lads gave “110 per cent”. Even when the opposition has won through being the better team, his view will always have to be: “We woz robbed.”

Should QPR be behind at half time, the line is: “At the end of the day, it’s a game of two halves and our injury list is extensive.”

And if QPR is beaten by a side considered weaker on paper, the correct response is: “Each game as it comes, there are no easy games in qualifying any more.”

While it is difficult enough for Indians not brought up in England to get used to English colloquialisms (for example, “not bad” means good), it is even more challenging for foreigners to master footballing language.

Mittal arrived in London in 1995 from Indonesia. After more than a decade in London, he will have appreciated that it is no longer cricket but football that has long been the national sport of Britain.

He cannot be expected to be a master of statistics, nor of who won the Cup in which year, nor enter the debate about whether George Best was the most talented footballer the UK has witnessed. However, it would be wise for him to learn about the summer of 1966 when England beat Germany to win the World Cup.

“The lads done good,” he would be advised to murmur after his third or fourth pint at QPR’s local pub when recalling the glories of the past.

If a QPR player is brought down in a fair tackle near the opposition goal, the automatic lament should be: “It was a clear penalty.”

When the “boys” lose, which may prove to be a frequent occurrence with QPR ó currently languishing at the bottom of the Championship (the highest football division after the Premier League) ó he must confess to being “sick as a parrot”.

Footballing language owes much to the television commentators, who are handsomely paid national figures. The satirical magazine Private Eye kept a tally of the more quotable observations of the former presenter, David Coleman, and listed them as “Colemanballs”.

Typical was Coleman’s comment: “Nottingham have now lost six matches in a row without winning.”

Many of the commentators are former players turned managers or coaches. “I felt a lump in my throat as the ball went in,” Terry Venables remarked on one occasion. On another, he urged: “If you can’t stand the heat in the dressing room, get out of the kitchen.”

Ron Atkinson, another manager, once said: “The Spaniards have been reduced to aiming aimless balls into the box.”

And he also said: “If Glenn Hoddle (a coach) said one word to his team at half time, it was concentration and focus.”

The philosophy that Mittal has pursued in expanding his steel empire ó “buy cheap and then build up your acquisition” ó appears to have been applied in the case of QPR.

Formula One duo Flavio Briatore and Bernie Ecclestone bought QPR for £14 million last month. Of this, £1 million was for the club’s shares and £13 million to clear QPR’s debts, with a further £5 million promised as investment in new players.

By this reckoning, Mittal should have paid £2.8 million for a 20 per cent stake. But according to the Daily Mail, “QPR chose not to make public the amount Mittal has paid for his shareholding but it is believed to have cost him around £1.6 million”.

If the Indian steel tycoon can bring some Indian Mittalisms into English football, he may yet be embraced by the nation. Meanwhile, he must learn to socialise with WAGS ó the “wives and girlfriends” of footballers.

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