Pressing Issues: Of caps, hat-tricks and burnt houses

2012-10-13 14:35

Two press releases issued by the SA Football Association (Safa) media department on Tuesday contained misleading expressions concerning international caps.

The first, titled Two New Caps in Banyana Banyana Team for 8th CAF African Women’s Championship 2012, was about striker Silindile Ngubane and goalkeeper Andile Dlamini being called up to Banyana Banyana by coach Joseph Mkhonza.

Later in the day, another statement was churned out with this introduction: “Bafana Bafana new cap Ricardo Nunes has joined the rest of the squad in the Polish capital of Warsaw in preparation for Friday’s friendly match”.

Problem is Ngubane, Dlamini and Nunes could not be called “caps” at that time as they still had not represented the country.

You see, “cap” is an international term used for representing your country.

What the releases show is the interchangeable way people incorrectly use the terms “cap” and “call-up”.

You can be called up to the national team but you only earn a cap once you have literally played. When we say former Bafana Bafana skipper Lucas Radebe has 70 caps, we are not counting the number of times he was called up but the number of times he actually played for the country.

This term originated in the 1800s when players were given real caps to wear on match days when representing their countries.

There are quite a number of such terms and clichés that people use willy-nilly in the sporting world without really grasping the real meaning nor origins. Two other such words are “club” and “team”.

Some years back, a colleague used the term “skipper” for a player and when I enquired why, his answer was: “Because he is a midfield marshal.”

Now, the term “skipper” is used for a ship captain. It was first used for a captain of a sports team in 1830.

The term hat-trick – meaning three goals or tries, or when a bowler takes three wickets in three successive balls, was coined after HH Stephenson achieved the feat in a county cricket match, leading his manager to move around with a hat making a collection for him from the crowd in 1858.

Another one of my favourites that is usually misused (or is it abused?) by television soccer “experts” is when they say a team “started like a house on fire”.

While I’ve never seen how a house on fire starts, the term “to get along like a house on fire” actually means to get
along very well.

Just like one of my mentors said, a cliché sounds brilliant the first time you hear it, but once you’ve heard or seen it more than three times, it goes flat.

So before you use words such as “brace”, “hat-trick”, “cap” or “skipper”, please make sure you know their meanings and origin so that you use them in a manner that does not mislead our children, readers, listeners and viewers.


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