Why FIFA Partnered with DeepL to Localize World Football (or Soccer!)


In a panel discussion moderated by Andrew Smart, Slator Co-Founder and Commercial Director, DeepL Customer Success VP Céline Daley, FIFA’s Wilma Ritter (Head of Language Center) and Marco Studer (PM, Translation Technologist, and German Translator) explored how the governing body of world football worked with machine translation leader DeepL to keep up with the “super fast-moving FIFA.”

The discussion started with Ritter providing insights into the structure of FIFA’s localization organization, which manages various services such as interpretation, translation, video subtitling, editing, proofreading, publishing and editorial design. The department handles a wide range of documents for different channels, including FIFA.com, FIFA+, corporate documents, regulations, media releases, and books for the World Cup. 

Ritter mentioned that FIFA decided to add three more languages (Arabic, Portuguese, and Russian) to its original four official languages (English, French, German, and Spanish). FIFA works with a team of 25 translators for the four official languages (English, French, Spanish, and German), supported by around 60 freelancers and 13 agencies for other languages. 

The discussion then shifted to the challenges faced in localizing sports content. Ritter highlighted the fast-paced nature of FIFA’s activities, political considerations, and the need to adapt to various linguistic nuances. For instance, the upcoming World Cup in the United States, Canada, and Mexico poses challenges in localizing to reflect the nuances of American English (“soccer” etc.).

A Self-Service Tool

Studer delved then into FIFA’s technology stack for managing the localization process. As he explained, FIFA has been using a computer-assisted translation (CAT) tool with server-based translation memories for the past two decades. They have also implemented a terminology database with thousands of entries — roughly 4000 entries —- in English, German, Spanish, and French. Recently, FIFA adopted a corporate translation management system and DeepL’s enterprise machine translation solution, DeepL Pro. FIFA opted for DeepL after the language AI company emerged as the winner in a competitive RFP.

Studer emphasized that DeepL Pro is widely used by FIFA’s employees as a “self-service tool” for document translations. The tool integrates glossaries and allows for mobile usage, providing flexibility during tournaments and events.

“Not everyone is always in front of a computer. There are a lot of competitions going on. People are always on the fly somewhere at the airport. So, it also helps us that they can use it on a mobile device,” he explained.

Secure Access

Daley explained how DeepL supports FIFA’s localization processes. DeepL’s single sign-on functionality ensures secure access to translations, and the glossary feature helps maintain consistency in translation across FIFA’s terminology.

During the discussion, Daley explained the functionality of the Glossary feature, which can be applied individually or across teams, departments, or organizations. The Glossary ensures a consistent translation of terms by allowing users to enter the verb and noun variations once, after which the software can intelligently translate them accordingly. 

According to Daley, DeepL’s desktop app and the ability to deploy it at scale through an MSI file have proven valuable. DeepL has received positive feedback from FIFA, and they continue to listen to feedback and enhance their partnership. “We’ve been very grateful for the partnership with FIFA for the last few years,” Daley said.


The discussion concluded with a focus on the challenges of translating sports terms due to their “unique cultural and regional contexts”. FIFA maintains consistency through a comprehensive terminology project spanning several years. The terminology database is integrated into the CAT tool, ensuring automatic suggestions of equivalent terms in the target language. The project will be expanded to include new languages like Arabic, Brazilian Portuguese, and Russian.

The panelists emphasized the importance of maintaining consistency in translating sports terms and highlighted FIFA’s efforts in building a comprehensive terminology database integrated into their CAT tool. They also mentioned the upcoming project to establish new termbases for the three additional languages.

“What is crazy at FIFA is that we have the power to invent words. […] This is very exciting to be part of the translation team at FIFA because we are also living the language of football on a daily basis,” Ritter said.

The panel finished with questions from the audience. For those who missed SlatorCon Remote March 2023 in real-time, recordings will be available via Slator’s Pro and Enterprise plans in due course.