Interview: Marc Joss | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Interview: Marc Joss

Marc Joss is a football translator and interpreter, who recently graduated from the University of Birmingham. Sports Editor Alex Kronenberg caught up with him following a busy year working on some exciting projects with big names in the world of football.

Alex Kronenberg: When were you at the University of Birmingham?

Marc Joss: 2007-2011

AK: What did you study?

MJ: BA Modern Languages – officially it was French, Italian and Spanish, but I did a Portuguese evening class in first year before choosing it as my optional module in the Hispanic department in both second and final year.

As a huge Arsenal fan, the two standout jobs to date have been interviewing Santi Cazorla in Spanish in February 2014 and Mathieu Debuchy in French in July 2014

AK: Were you part of any of the Guild's media groups?

MJ: No, although I was the treasurer for Hispanic Society and international officer of FrogSoc in my second year.

 AK: When did you decide you wanted to be a football translator and interpreter?

MJ: The idea of combining languages with football was something that had always appealed to me. I didn't really know how to get into it until it happened. A key moment was when Guillem Balagué posted online that he was looking for a native English speaker who spoke Spanish, knew about websites and was passionate about football to work for him full-time in October 2012. I applied believing I ticked all the boxes (I've been co-running a Nando's fan site called since 2009) and never heard back. I was devastated, but it proved to work out in the long run. At least from that moment onwards, I knew there was scope to use my languages in football.


AK: What did you do after you graduated?

MJ: I spent 2011-12 in Madrid and 2012-13 in Paris teaching English through the British Council language assistant programme. I was incredibly lucky to be placed in the cities of my choice and have countless wonderful memories from those two academic years. In summer 2013 I taught English to foreign teenagers on summer camp in Brighton before getting into football translation and interpreting in September 2013 which has been my profession ever since, and I hope it will remain so in the long run.

AK: What have been the highlights for you in your work so far?

MJ: As a huge Arsenal fan, the two standout jobs to date have been interviewing Santi Cazorla in Spanish in February 2014 and Mathieu Debuchy in French in July 2014, before translating the content into English and seeing it on the Arsenal website.  I must add that every job I've done for Guillem Balagué has been brilliant including translating the entirety of Barça: The Official Illustrated History of FC Barcelona from Spanish into English, simultaneous interpreting for Real Madrid legend Fernando Hierro and translating several interviews from Portuguese into English which were used in Sky Sports documentary The Making of Ronaldo. More information on my Twitter (@MarcLinguist) and website (

I sometimes think I'm dreaming when I wake up and know I'll be getting paid to speak to a professional Premier League footballer

AK: How did you end up working with Guillem Balague?

MJ: Believe it or not, it was a chance meeting at passport control at Luton Airport in June 2013. As I mentioned earlier, I had applied to work for him in October 2012, but never heard back. My friends and I had just touched down after a weekend away when we spotted a familiar figure in the distance. We let a few people go ahead of us so that we could speak to one of the most important figures in Spanish football in this country. A 15-minute discussion ensued in which I mentioned my unsuccessful job application the previous year. It turned out that the timing couldn't have been any better as Guillem was writing a new book at the time. He gave me his email address explaining there was a chance that he'd need a second translator. Three months later I got a call on a Thursday evening asking if I could translate 12,000 words from Spanish into English for his authorised biography on Lionel Messi by the Monday. I could barely believe my ears. Of course I gleefully accepted the offer. I powered through, hardly slept and that was the start of what has been a phenomenal working relationship so far. I'm very thankful to Guillem for giving me the chance to work with him. I'll never EVER complain about a long queue at passport control for the rest of my days.

AK: What does a standard week entail for you?

MJ: There's no such thing! As a freelancer, every week is different. I'm a translator for Spanish sports newspaper Marca and have 2 or 3 4-hour shifts each week in which I translate short Spanish articles into English for the website which is the closest I come to a standard day job. If I have a big project on such as translating a football book or translating press conferences and interviews at a major tournament such as the World Cup, my social life takes a back seat, not that I mind. If anything, it gives me even more reason to watch as much live football as possible! If not, it's a combination of social media for me, Rate Your Nando's and Babble London (the free language exchange event that I run every Sunday in Waterloo), website updates and networking. Odd jobs at media studios and football training grounds come in every now and then, but not quite as many as I'd like at this stage.

AK: What do you most enjoy about your work?

MJ: The fact that on most days I get to combine two of my biggest passions and I can say that I love my job. My main aim when I left the University of Birmingham was to use my languages in my career. I sometimes think I'm dreaming when I wake up and know I'll be getting paid to speak to a professional Premier League footballer in French or Spanish, especially if he plays for Arsenal!


AK: Do you harbour any coaching ambitions like one former translator, José Mourinho, once did?

MJ: You're not the first person to ask! I did love Championship Manager in my teens, but don't see myself becoming a coach! I do love playing 5-a-side football, although I'm finally accepting, aged 25, that my childhood dream of becoming a professional football is never going to come true.

AK: Is there any player, manager or team you would particularly like to translate or interpret for?

MJ: Anybody and everybody connected with Arsenal. Arsène Wenger is a true inspiration to me as a hugely successful polyglot himself. I've been a football fan since 1996, the year when he took charge. I was lucky enough to meet him at an Arsenal shareholders meeting and have a brief word in French, although no interpreting was involved unfortunately.

AK: Where do you hope to be in the next 10 years?

MJ: I hope to have translated many more books and interpreted for several other top footballers. Who knows, maybe I'll even have a coaching badge or two!

Philosophy student and Sports Editor for Redbrick (@AlexKronenberg)


2nd February 2015 at 8:39 pm