A top soccer player had fans scratching their heads during a championship game on Tuesday between Atlético Madrid and Real Madrid in the Spanish capital after he inadvertently revealed a Hebrew tattoo on his back that was not only grammatically incorrect, but also written backward.
The revelation came after the Croatian-born Mario Mandžukić, who plays for Atlético Madrid, was elbowed in the face as he went for the ball during the UEFA Champions League match.
Mandžukić crashed to the ground, where he writhed in agony from the blow. As television cameras zoomed in on the unfortunate player, viewers got a peek at a tattoo in what appeared to be Hebrew script, just visible along his lower back.
Puzzled fans took to social media in an effort to decipher the ink. It was quickly identified as Hebrew but the translation remained elusive, until sharp-eyed readers pointed out that the text was written from left to right instead of from right to left. In addition, the letters themselves were facing the wrong way, giving the slogan the appearance of being in mirror writing, and suggesting that the tattoo artist was either an aspiring Leonardo da Vinci, who wrote mainly in mirror-image cursive, or hopelessly incompetent.
Look, we take what they give us. Anyway, we need a translation for Mandzukic’s lower-back tattoo. And a reason. pic.twitter.com/X3L1dGAmoN
— Soccer Gods (@soccergods) April 14, 2015
Once the bizarre lettering had been sorted out, it emerged that the tattoo aimed to proclaim “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger,” although spelling errors rendered the actual translation closer to the grammatically awkward “Which doesn’t to kill me, makes me stronger.”
Like ink sporting Chinese characters, Hebrew tattoos have gained a reputation for being prone to going awry, and there is even a website, BadHebrew, dedicated to highlighting some of the worst examples.
As for Mandžukić, when he eventually got to his feet he had a bloodied nose and a bruised reputation.
The game ended with a goalless draw, probably making his hapless tattoo the most interesting thing about it.