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Belgium is a country with three official languages (Dutch, French and German), all of which are used in practice by significant portions of the population, largely divided by geography. Of course, football players come from all different regions. How do they communicate on national teams? Is there a dominant language, or does each just use his most fluent language while all others are assumed to be able to understand, more or less? In what language does the coach instruct the team?

On a side note, I've read somewhere that players (and some supporters) of Anderlecht use English to communicate and support the team. I hadn't imagined English to be such a popular choice in a country where it's not an official language. Does this claim make sense?

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    One could ask the same for Swiss players. – hairboat Jul 1 '14 at 17:58
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    yesterday the swiss coach Ottmar Hitzfeld talkt to them in Swiss-German. A kind of german dialect, but hard to understand for germans. – Phab Jul 2 '14 at 8:05
  • Note that during the debates of the Belgian federal parliament (and incidentally also of the Swiss “national council”), MP simply speak in their own language, with no translation. They are expected to have at least a passive knowledge of the other language. German speakers in Belgium and Italian speakers in Switzerland very often know the two other languages. – Relaxed Jan 14 '15 at 14:51
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German isn't really a significant language in Belgium. All players will speak either French or Dutch. English is increasingly becoming an unifying language in the country as the Dutch of Wallonians is virtually non existent and despite some knowledge of French being widespread in Flanders it tends to be weaker than their English ability. I somehow doubt Anderlecht fans make much use of English on the terraces as they would be predominantly French speaking, although some chants may be in English for the benefit of the visiting supporters who are mainly Flemish as the vast majority of Belgian league teams hail from the Dutch speaking Flemmish region.

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According to The Sun:

Kevin de Bruyne is a Flemish-speaker from Ghent whilst Axel Witsel speaks only French (he was born in Liège). [...] Romelu Lukaku can speak six – Flemish, English, French, Portuguese, Spanish and Swahili. But some of the French-speaking players are monolingual.

English is reportedly used as the common language in the dressing room, so the Belgian FA cannot be accused of favouring either French or Flemish over the other and creating language barriers.

Their current coach speaks to the team in English, but this is something that can change over time, if Roberto Martinez leaves the team.

Martinez is a Spanish coach who talks in none of the three official languages of Belgium: French, Flemish and German. He uses English when speaking to the players, where it acts as a middle ground.


Regarding the second question: given that French is de-facto the main language of Brussels (where Anderlecht is based), you would expect the locals (homegrown players, fans) to communicate mainly in this language. But if you include international players into the equation and also the increasing popularity of English in Brussels, it wouldn't be a surprise if players spoke it as well. In either case it's definitely not Flemish (a variant of Dutch) which interestingly was the historical language of Brussels.

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