Whitecaps unveil nine new Twitter language feeds, with more planned

Vancouver Whitecaps' Fredy Montero passes the ball. (Darryl Dyck/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Looking to embrace their multicultural home and welcome potential fans father afield, the Vancouver Whitecaps unveiled official club Twitter feeds in nine new languages Monday.

The new feeds come in Arabic, Chinese, French, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Tagalog (spoken in the Philippines). The Major League Soccer team is also looking to introduce Farsi, German, Italian, Japanese, Punjabi and Serbian feeds and is open to others.

Whitecaps players like Guinea-Bissau’s Janio Bikel, Colombia’s Fredy Montero, Iraq’s Ali Adnan, South Korea’s Inbeom Hwang, Tunisia’s Jasser Khmiri and Canada’s Maxime Crepeau taped Twitter video messages in the appropriate language for the new social media feeds.

"You’ll be seeing a lot more of that in the days to come," said Adam Rootman, the Whitecaps’ marketing and digital director.

The club’s current roster features players born in 14 different countries: Canada (14), Colombia (2), U.S. (2), and Argentina, Australia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, France, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Iraq, Peru, Serbia, South Korea and Tunisia.

Among players and coaches, a dozen languages are spoken. The front office staff also draws on many backgrounds.

For Rootman, the Twitter expansion is a "good news story in challenging times."

It’s also a chance to connect around the world ahead of other MLS teams.

"Soccer is the world’s game and Vancouver is a global market," Whitecaps CEO Mark Pannes said in a statement. "Our city is a gateway, it sits on the Pacific Rim, it’s part of the Commonwealth, and it’s home to a very diverse population.

"We have a wealth of people keen to follow this club, support this club and join us in every success. This is one more step in connecting us together."

After Pannes asked for the expanded Twitter presence upon taking up his position in January, the Whitecaps reached out on social media to see what parts of its fan base would be interested in helping.

"I was pretty impressed with the response that we got," said Rootman.

They narrowed it down to one person per language but Rootman says he continues to receive applications regarding other languages.

The next challenge is to build the followers on the new club feeds. Initially each feed will rely solely on a small number of translated "factual tweets" a day but the goal is add to that engagement.

Of the people running the new language feeds, eight are based in Vancouver.

"What’s great about Vancouver is it is a multicultural community so we do have lots of local candidates in multiple different languages," said Rootman. "Ideally we keep it local but we’re not set on that."

The French feed is being run by someone in France who had lived in Vancouver on an exchange and had started his own French-language Whitecaps feed.

"He’s just a massive fan," Rootman added.

In many ways, the project is similar to that of the popular soccer simulation game Football Manager, which relies on local "scouts" to keep its databases accurate and up to date.

Those responsible for the language feeds are volunteers but will be rewarded with merchandise, tickets and other perks, said Rootman.

As of Monday afternoon, the Whitecaps had 335,500 followers on its main Twitter feed compared to 345,300 for the Montreal Impact (whose account is bilingual) and 413,200 for Toronto FC.

Los Angeles FC and the Los Angeles Galaxy both have Spanish Twitter feeds as well as English.

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