Glossary of Football Vocabulary (Soccer)

This extensive glossary of football vocabulary (soccer) is designed to help you learn the language associated with the beautiful game. It's the ultimate guide to the lingo of the football World Cup and of the Champions League, and you will hear many of these terms and phrases used during discussion of the game and in match commentaries.

Jump to one of the following sections, or simply browse the glossary below:

Ball control and play


Putting the ball where you want to go, usually used about passes and shots. Often used in contrast to power.

Aerial skills

Being good at heading the ball.


An attempt usually means a failed shot at goal.

Back heel

Using the back of your foot to pass the ball, or sometimes shoot.

Back of the net (in the)

A goal, as a ball which goes into the goal is usually trapped at the back of the net until it is picked up

Ball control

Ball control involves skills like trapping and dribbling.

Ball watching

Looking only at the ball and so not seeing where the other players are, especially the player who you are trying to mark.

Balloon shot

A shot that goes far too high is a balloon shot.

Bicycle kick

A shot in which the player flips their body over to shoot (or more unusually cross) by kicking the ball while it is over their own head.


A bad, probably embarrassing, mistake is a blunder.

Bobble (n/v)

Movement of the ball on the ground, e.g. due a pitch that isn’t flat, that means that it doesn’t move in a straight line and so makes it difficult to kick, trap or save.

Boot the ball

Kick the ball hard and far, perhaps without thinking about where you want it to go

Carrying (the ball)

A goalkeeper walking more than three steps while holding the ball


A chip, or chip shot, is a shot that is hit high in order to bend over the goalkeeper's head and go into the goal.


Getting the ball away from your own goal, e.g. by kicking it far away towards the other goal.


Jump to head the ball

Comfortable on the ball

Someone who's comfortable on the ball is good at dribbling.


Trapping and dribbling


A corner, or corner kick, is a dead ball situation in which you kick the ball from the spot on the corner of the pitch near the opposition goal, usually as a cross.

Cross (n/v)

The ball being kicked from the wings towards a player, usually a striker, near the opposition goal. Collocations: looping cross, low cross.

Cut infield

A winger coming away from the touchline and towards the penalty box.

Dangerous in the air

A player who is dangerous in the air is likely to score goals with their head.

Dangerous position

A free kick which is likely to lead to a goal, for example because it is near the goal or the attacking side has a dead ball specialisation.

Dead ball

A situation in which play has stopped and so the side which has the ball can take their time about how and when they move the ball into play, e.g. a penalty or corner. Some teams spend a lot of time planning and practising these situations.


A shot at goal that hits a player that is in the way and so changing path, often making it harder to save and so causing a goal.

Diving header

A header of a low cross, meaning that the player’s body is nearly horizontal when they make contact with the ball and that they usually land flat on the ground


Controlling the ball with your feet as you run.


Pretending you are going to move one way so that you can go past by moving in the other direction, or the same with kicking the ball. Also called feint.

Exposed at the back

Problems in defence, usually because of players being too close to the opposition goal, but also possibly due to injuries to the first choice defenders.


A feint is the same as a dummy.


Shooting, usually used to talk about how well a player does so.

First touch

(1) Being able to quickly control the ball when it comes to you, e.g. being to pass it without needing to trap it first (2) The first time a player kicks or heads the ball after coming into the match, e.g. "After coming on as a substitute, Owen scored the equaliser with his first touch (of the ball)".


Like a deflection in that the ball isn’t deflected much from its original route, but deliberate and usually with the foot or head


A lucky goal or save, for example the ball going off your bottom into the net.

Free kick

Similar to a penalty, but with the ball further from the goal.

Collocations Awarded a + , Take a +, indirect free kick, direct free kick


The goalkeeper not catching the ball properly, often leading to a goal, is a fumble.

Give the ball away

For example, passing the ball to a player from the other team, being too easy to tackle or losing the ball while trying to dribble. A very negative expression, more so than lose the ball.

Go past someone

Dribble the ball around someone so that you end up closer to their goal than they are.

Go the right way

A goalkeeper guessing which way a shot will go and so diving in the right direction. Often used for penalties.

Go the wrong way

A goalkeeper guessing incorrectly which way a shot will go and so diving in the wrong direction. Often used for penalties.

Goal kick

A dead ball situation in which the goalkeeper is allowed to kick the ball from the spot without being tackled, usually due to the ball going behind the goal line off a player from the other team, but also sometimes in place of a free kick.

Half volley

Kicking the ball after it has just hit the ground and so hasn’t really had time to bounce, making it look similar to a volley and similarly difficult to kick well.

Hammer the ball home

Kick the ball very hard and score a goal.

Head in

Score a goal with your head.


Using your head to control the ball, e.g. in trying to score a goal.


A really bad piece of play, for example a fumble by the goalkeeper or missing a sitter.


Take the ball which someone from the other team was trying to pass to their own player.

Into the net

If you kick the ball into the net, you kick it into the goal and score.


Kicking the ball without moving your foot very much

Keep the ball in play

Stop the ball going over the white touchline at the side of the pitch and so not need to stop play.


Use your foot to hit the ball

Kick off

The start of the match, in which the team who won the coin toss can kick the ball first from the centre spot.


A slight injury from colliding with another player.

Knock the ball down

Head the ball down to the ground so you or another player from your team can kick it, usually so that they can shoot.

Last ditch tackle

A tackle which will cause the attacking player to be in front of goal with only the goalkeeper to beat if it fails.

Leave the goal wide open

A goalkeeper standing in a position that makes it easy to score, for example being too close to one post.


(1) Finding it easier to kick with your left foot, similar to being left-handed but not always going together with that (2) Using your left foot to shoot, usually used about a right footed player using their weaker foot.

Long ball game

A traditional British tactic in which the ball is kicked high along the length of the pitch to be headed, rather than passed through the midfield.

Looping cross

A cross which goes high, therefore going over defenders. The opposite of a low cross.

Low cross

A cross which stays close to the ground, for example for a diving header or volley.

Low shot

A shot which stays close to the ground, often meaning that the goalkeeper has to dive far to their right or left to reach it.

Majority of possession

Your players having the ball more than the other team.

Man on

Shouted to tell someone that they are in danger of being tackled.


Staying close to an attacking player to make sure they can’t get the ball or can’t pass or shoot if they have it.

Misdirect a pass

Pass the ball to the wrong place, e.g. to an player from the opposing side or to somewhere the player it is meant for can’t possibly get to.

Misplace a pass

Pass the ball to the wrong place, e.g. to an opposing player or to somewhere the player it is meant for can’t possibly run to.

Movement off the ball

Moving around even when someone else has the ball, e.g. moving into space so that someone can pass the ball to you.

Moving into space

Running into a place on the pitch where there are no opposition players, making it easy to pass the ball to you.


Make sure that a threatening team or player is actually not a danger, e.g. by good man to man marking or by using the right formation.


Kick the ball through the legs of a player

Off target

Not towards the goal, so that it wouldn’t go in even if the goalkeeper wasn’t there.

Off the ball

While the other player doesn’t have the ball, for example shirt tugging just to annoy another player or to stop them running into space

On target

Likely to lead to a goal if no one gets in the way, i.e. going towards the goal.

On the break

Scoring on the break means scoring while most of the players are in the other half of the pitch, for example because the other team has had most of the possession and done most of the attacking.

One touch football

A style of play in which players very quickly pass the ball.

Open play

Open play is the opposite of a set piece.

Outside of the foot

The right side of your right foot or the left side of your left foot. Using the outside of your foot is often seen a sign of skill.

Park the bus (in front of the goal)

If a team parks the bus, they pull all the players back to defend, usually to defend a lead.


Kicking the ball from one player to another player on the same side.

Passing game

A style of play in which passing is the most important element, the opposite of long ball.

Penalty (kick)

Being able to try to score a goal in your own time from the penalty spot. This is used to decide which team wins if the score is even at the end of extra time, or is used as a punishment, for example for a foul inside the area. 

Play deep

Playing closer to your own goal than is usual for that player or position, e.g. a striker playing behind another striker to help them.

Playing wide

Playing on the right and left of the pitch, far from the centre and near the touchline.


(1) Having the ball (2) How much of the match your team had the ball, often given as a percentage, e.g. "Although Italy had 70% possession, they still could only manage a DRAW".

Collocations Lose +, majority or possession

Pull the ball back

A pass or cross which goes backwards to some degree.

Put it away

If you put it away, you score a goal.


How well players or a whole team understand each other, e.g. being able to anticipate each other’s moves. Often used about an important partnership.

Read a pass

Know where and when a pass is going to end up

Reflex save

A save made without any time to plan, e.g. the goalkeeper diving in the wrong direction during a penalty but sticking his leg up to save the ball.

Reflex shot

A shot kicked with no time to consciously plan what you are doing, e.g. a volley.

Running off the ball

Running when you don't have the ball


Stop the ball from entering your goal. Mainly used to talk about what the goalkeeper tries to do.

Score (a goal)

Put the ball into the opposition goal.

Scoring opportunity

A chance to score a goal.

Set play

A freekick, throw-in or corner- when the ball is returned into play after a stoppage.

Set up (a goal)

Pass the ball so that it is in a position where someone else on your team can score.


Moving your hips in order to go around a player or as a feint


Kick the ball towards the goal to try and get it in the goal and score.


The noun from shoot.

Shots off target

The number of attempts at scoring goals by one team or player that wouldn’t have gone in even if the other team hadn’t been there.

Shots on target

The number of goals that a player or team would have scored if the defending team had not got in the way.


Using particularly difficult techniques like a bicycle kick to entertain the crowd or show off.

Silky skills

Used to talk about skilful and apparently effortless passing and dribbling.

Sit back

(1) Relax (2) Stop attacking, like a person relaxing into a sofa


An incredibly easy shot, as if the ball is sitting there waiting for you to kick and score whenever you feel like it. Often used to say that someone should have scored an easy goal but missed it.

Sliding tackle

Trying to take the ball off someone by slipping along the ground towards them, easiest to do when the pitch is wet but often leading to dangerous play.

Slot it in

Score a goal, usually meaning due to accuracy rather than power, and maybe meaning from short range.

Solo effort

A solo goal or close attempt.

Solo goal

Scoring a goal without much help just before that time, for example going past several players rather than just heading in a cross.

Spot kick

A fairly common way of saying penalty kick.


Straight across the pitch, not towards either goal

Straight to the arms of

A shot that is very easy for the goalkeeper to catch, without them even needing to move their body.

Supply line

(1) Passes and crosses towards the strikers (2) A player who provides those passes and crosses

Switch flanks

Move from the right wing to the left, or the other way round.


Take the ball off another player, usually by kicking the ball that they are trying to dribble.

Tackling back

Taking the ball off a player who just took it off you.

Tame shot

A shot with little force or kicked near to the goalkeeper. Similar to weak shot, but usually used to criticize the goalkeeper, e.g. "A tame shot by Rooney somehow went between the goalkeeper’s legs and into the net."

Tap it in

Score a goal with a gentle shot.

Thread the ball

Pass the ball between two opposing players, similar to putting a thread into the hole in a needle.

Through on goal

Past the last defender

Throw in

Returning the ball to play by throwing it from the touchline, usually because the ball has gone off the pitch after hitting a player from the other team, but sometimes also in place of a free kick. The only time when a player other than the goalkeeper is allowed to use their hands in play.

Tracking back

Forwards coming back towards their own goal to help to defend when the other team is attacking.


If you trap the ball, you stop it moving, for example when it is passed to you.

Tuck it away

Easily score, maybe from close to the goal.


A shot that is so well placed or (more commonly) powerful that the goalkeeper has no chance of saving it.


Kicking the ball when it is still in their air and so hasn’t yet hit the ground and bounced, therefore making it more difficult to judge and control.

Wasted ball

A good chance (usually to score) that is not taken advantage of, for example PASSing when you should have taken a shot.

Weak effort

A very bad shot at goal.

Weaker foot

Your left foot if you are right-footed, or your right foot if you are left-footed.


The weight of a pass is how much force it is hit with, affecting how far and fast it travels.

Well placed

A shot or pass which is put in exactly the right position.


On the right and left of the pitch, far from the centre and near the touchline,

Win the ball

Take possession of the ball, usually meaning tackiling but maybe also by intercepting a pass.

Wrong foot

Your left foot if you are right-footed and your right foot if you are left-footed.

Clothes and Equipment

Away strip

A second set of clothes (kit) that teams use when teams play away and their usual strip would be too similar to that of the home team, e.g. because both Liverpool and Manchester United play in red.


An appearance for a team, e.g. thenationalside. Often used to express the number of times that a player has played for one side, e.g. "David Beckham got his 100th cap for England last weekend"

Captain’s armband

A piece of fabric worn around the upper arm that shows who the captain of each team is. If the captain is substituted, this is passed to another player.

Football kit

Football kit is a term for the clothes and boots that a footballer wears.

Home strip

The football kit that a team usually uses and is famous for, e.g. black and white stripes for Newcastle.


A football shirt is a jersey.


The normal word for the clothes that footballers wear.

Shin pads

Protection for the bone at the front of your leg below the knee, worn under the socks


Another way to say football kit- the clothes worn.


Things that stick out of the bottom of the sole of a football boot, stopping players slipping but also sometimes causing injuries during tackles.

Three lions

The coat of arms on the England football shirt


A matching pair of casual trousers and top (usually with a zip), often worn on top of the football kit until player has warmed up.

Wearing the armband

The person wearing the armband is the captain.


18 yard box
Another way to say PENALTY BOX
Back pages
A nickname for the sports pages of a newspaper, due to their position in British and other newspapers
Beautiful game

Football is the beautiful game.


A hot drink made from meat extract that smells like gravy and is popular in English football grounds, as it keeps you warm and alcohol is not available

Coming back from injury

Playing or training after missing some matches due to injury.


A medical condition in which it becomes impossible to move a muscle and it becomes stiff and painful, often used by not drinking enough liquids or not doing stretches before playing

The first time a player plays for a particular side or at a particular level, e.g. "He must be very nervous to have his international debut at the age of 17"
A goal or match which settles which team will win, e.g. one which gives one side an UNASSAILABLE LEAD, or a GOLDEN GOAL
Lights that mean play can continue when it would otherwise be too dark

An informal British way of saying football, more popular in the UK than the expression "soccer" once they realised that Americans always use "soccer" ("football" in the USA means American football).


A match that is just for practice or charity. The opposite of a competitive match.

Hand of God

The goal which Maradona scored against England in the World Cup by lifting his hand above his head, named after his famously false statement after the match that it was the head of Maradona but the hand of God.

Linked with
"Steven Gerard has been linked with Real Madrid" means that there are rumours about him joining that club
Magic sponge

When players were in pain, a trainer used to come out with a bucket of water and a sponge. Amazingly, this often lead to the player getting up and starting to play again, hence "magic".

Magic spray

A modern version of the magic sponge.

Man short (a)
Playing with ten men, because one player received a RED CARD
Match of the Day

Traditionally the most popular English football show on TV


Short written form of Match of the Day.

Niggling injury
An injury that is never very painful and doesn’t completely stop you from playing, but means you can never play to your best

Able to run quickly

On paper
"It’s a good team on paper" means that theoretically it should be a good team (but often that it isn’t actually that good, for example because the players don’t get on with each other)
Post-match analysis

The time after the match when the commentators and pundits talk about the match they have just seen.


(1) Showing a part of the match again on TV (2) Playing the same match again, for example because the original match had to be abandoned.


Start a match again which has been paused due to things like bad weather, the spotlights going off, or a pitch invasion.

An informal way of saying CAPTAIN

Excitement and skill, the things that make a football match good to watch.


Exercises that players do to make their muscles flexible before they start playing.

Table football

A pub game with plastic players that can be twisted around to "kick" a small ball into two wooden goals.

Places in the stadium where there are no seats and so the fans have to stand. Often used to suggest more enthusiastic supporters. There are no terraces in ALL SEATER stadiums
Able to play in several positions

Goals and Results

Abandoned match

A match that the REFEREE stops before REGULATION TIME (and sometimes before the game starts), for example because of very bad weather, or a bad PITCH INVASION

Above the relegation zone

In a position that will mean that you don’t have to worry about being RELEGATED to a lower DIVISION if you are still in that position at the end of the SEASON, e.g. the fifth team from the bottom. Often used with a number of points, e.g. "Blackpool must be relieved now that they are seven points above the relegation zone"

Against the run of play

A goal scored when the other team seems to be doing much better, for example when most of the play is in the other half of the pitch

Aggregate score

Calculated by adding the two scores together when teams play two matches, one at home and one away, for example in the semi-finals


Used to show that the final score was a draw, e.g. "Two all" for "Two two"

Away goal (rule)

When the agregate score from home and away matches is a draw (e.g. 2-2), goals scored away count more than goals scored at home and so can decide which team progresses to the next round (in the example, the team who was playing at home in the second match because they scored once away from home wins).

Away leg

When a tie is played in legs at both teams’ grounds, the match that isn’t played at your own ground. The opposite of home leg.


Win against another team A typical mistake is to say "Spurs won Aston Villa" when it should be "Spurs beat Aston Villa".

Bottom half of the table

If there are 12 teams in a division, the lowest 6 teams at that time. This expression is usually used to indicate that those teams are in danger of relegation at the end of the season.

Bottom of the table

The 12th team in a twelve team division, likely to suffer a automatic demotion to a lower division if they don’t win soon.


Two goals, usually by the same player, in one match. One less than a hat trick.

Bury the ball (in the net)

Score a goal

Clean sheet

Not letting any goals in, often used to describe how well a goalkeeper or defence is playing, e.g. "Peter Shilton kept a clean sheet for 15 matches"

Concede a goal

A goal being scored against your team. The opposite of score a goal.


Win easily, or seem to be winning easily when something surprising happens

Cup champion

The opposite of a league champion, a team that has won a cup competition.

Defend a lead

Stopping the other team scoring to even up the score, for example defending when it is 1-0 to your team at half time or when the score is 2-1 to your team after the first leg.


The number of goals or points that a team is behind.


The same as relegation and the opposite of promotion- being forced to go down to a lower division because you finished the season at the bottom of the table.

Division champions

The team at the top of the table at the end of the season. The division champions of the top division, e.g. the English Premiership, are league champions, and the division champions of lower divisions are usually promoted.


(1) equal scores at the end of a match (2) picking which teams will play against which in a championship


A goal which makes the scores even, for example going from 2-1 to 2-2.


Both teams having the same score during a match, e.g. being 2 all(2- 2) at half time. Often confused witha draw, which is the score at the end of the match being equal.


A game is another way of saying a match.

Get on the scoresheet

A player who hasn't got on the scoresheet hasn’t scored their first goal yet, usually used about one match but sometimes for a whole season.

Go in front

Take the lead, for example go from 1-1 to 2-1.

Goal fest

A game with lots of goals, e.g. 6-4. The opposite of a np score draw.

Goalless draw

A game that ends with a 0-0 result.

Golden goal

A kind of extra time where the match only continues until the next goal, at which time the team that scored it wins, with the other team having no chance to score an equaliser.

Hat trick

Three goals by the same player in the same match.

Home advantage

Being more than usually likely to win a match due to playing at your home ground.

Home defeat

Losing a match at your own stadium.

In front

"Two goals in front" is the same as "a lead of two goals", e.g. 4-2.

Last gasp goal

A goal in the last few moments of the match, often used for an equaliser or a goal that gets the team points that they absolutely must get, for example to avoid relegation. The literal meaning of "last gasp" is your last breath of air before you die.


(1) How many goals a team is ahead during the game, e.g. if the score is 3-1 the home team has a lead of two goals (2) How many points a team is ahead in the division.


A goal which makes the scores even, e.g. going from 2-1 to 2-2. An informal way to say equaliser.

Lose on penalties

Be even after extra time, but then score fewer penalties than the other side and so lose the game. England have done this more at the World Cup than any other team ever.

Match winner

The goal that meant that your team won the match, e.g. the goal that took the score from 2-2 to 3-2.


The normal British way to say "zero" when talking about reulsts and scores, as in "two nil" for 2-0.

No score draw

The final score being 0-0. Sometimes jokingly called a "no score bore".


The first goal of a game, making the score 1-0 or 0-1.

Own goal

The ball accidentally going into your goal off one of your own players, e.g. a failed backpass.

Penalty shoot-out

Penalties at the end of extra time when the game is still drawn to decide which team will win.

Playing for a draw

Aiming to defend to keep the scores even rather than taking a risk in order to win the game, usually because one point is enough for you, perhaps because you won the first leg or because you have a good lead in your division.


(1) The final score (2) Winning, e.g. "We didn’t play very well, but we were just happy to get a result"


The expression "We were robbed" is often used to say that bad refereeing decisions were they only reason we didn’t win a match

Scraped into

Only get just enough points to do things, e.g. only be above the team below by goal difference, like a boat scraping over the rocks at the bottom of the sea or a bus scraping its roof as it goes under a low bridge.


Penalties at the end of extra time when the result is still a draw to decide which side will win.

Six pointer

A match where you are playing against your closest rival and therefore a win (3 points) for you is also like taking another 3 points off them by stopping them winning and getting those points.


Beat by a large margin, e.g. 6-0. The literal meaning of thrash is also similar to beat.


(1) A draw (2) A match, e.g. "A home tie" or "A difficult tie"

Top four finish

Between first and fourth place in the league at the end of the season. Important in leagues where the top four teams have a chance of being promoted or can enter the Champions League.

Top half of the table

For example, the top 6 teams in a division of 12 teams. Used to show that they could be promoted, could have a top four finish, or are in little danger of being relegated.

Top the group

The team with the most points from a group stage, usually meaning that they can play a second placed team from another group in the first knockout stage. Not the same as go top, which can be temporary.

Turn the tables

Put the other team into the position you were in, as if you were playing poker and you literally turned the table around so that you now had their hand of cards and they had yours.

Unassailable lead

So far ahead in goals or points that other teams can’t possibly catch up.

Unconvincing victory

Winning the match in an unimpressive way, for example because the other team was weak and should have been beaten by more goals, or only winning because of luck.

Yoyo team

A team that is often goes through promotion and demotion, going up and down like a toy yoyo

Leagues, Divisions and Cups

Automatic promotion

Teams who can go up to the next division without needing to go through a play-off match with other candidates for promotion, usually because they finished first or second in their division at the end of the regular season.

Champions’ League

The European Champions’ League is the most prestigious competition in Europe, where the top teams from each national league play against each other in group and knockout stages

Charity Shield

The normal and informal way of saying the FA Community Shield (from its old name), a one off match played between the previous season's winners of the League and FA Cup in England and so therefore theoretically deciding on the best side in the country

Clean sweep

Winning all the trophies that it is possible to win in one season.

Competitive match

The opposite of a friendly, in which the points gained actually count towards qualification, winning a championship, etc.

Cup competition

A competition that includes or entirely consists of a knockout competition. The opposite of a league.

Cup tie

A match in a knockout completion, often contrasted with more important league matches.


A number of teams who play each other twice during a season to see which team will be division champions, which teams will get a promotion and which teams will get a relegation, for example the English Premiership.


Things in your own country, contrasting with international, European, etc.

Domestic double

Winning two different competitions in your own country, e.g. the FA Cup and the League in the same season.


Losing a match and going out of a knockout comepetition, or losing a match and so not being able to get enough points to progress to the next stage.

FA Charity Shield

The FA Charity Shield is another name for the Charity Shield.

FA Cup

The FA Cup is the most prestigious cup competition in England. Unlike the LeagueCup, non-league sides can also play in this competition


The team that most people think will win.


The last match of a cup competition, deciding who the champion is.

First leg

When the team that wins will be decided over two matches, usually home and away (e.g. the Champions’ League semi finals), the first of the two matches which is played is the first leg.


A fixture is a match set for a particular date.

Fixture list

A list of all the games that a team will play during a season and which ones will be at home or away.

Full international

A match with a national side that is competitive, i.e. not a friendly. This expression is often used to show that a player has reached the top level of the game, e.g. "Roberts never expected to play his first full international at the age of 34"

Game in hand

When two or more teams are equal or close on points but one team has played one fewer match and so might have more points when they have played that game, they are said to have a game in hand.

Go down

If a team go down, they are relegated to a lower division.

Go top

Reach first place in the division during the season.

Go up

Be promoted to a higher division.

Goal difference

When two teams have an equal number of points in a league, which one is further up the table is decided by which has a better total from adding up all the goals they have scored and then taking away all the goals scored against them, e.g. "Chelsea and Birmingham have the same number of points, but Birmingham are favourites to win the league due to a much better goal difference of +22"

Golden boot

The reward for the most goals scored by one player in a season, e.g. in the Champions’ League.

Group match

A game in the early stages of a competition that finishes with a knockout stage for the final etc but has teams playing in a mini-league at the beginning, like the World Cup. E.g. "England thought they were joint favourites to win the European Cup, but now it seems they will be lucky to win any of their group matches"

Group of death

A group in which has no clear favourites and so all the teams have a good chance of getting enough points to go through to the next round and therefore the task is very difficult for them.

Group stages

In a competition that finishes with a knockout stage, the earlier stages in which several teams play each other in a mini league format to see which teams get enough points to progress to the next stage (usually the top two teams).

Home leg

A match at your own stadium whose score will be added to a match in your opponent’s stadium to decide who wins.

Host a championship

Have a competition in your country, city or stadium, e.g. "South Africa is hosting the 2010 World Cup"

Knockout competition

A championship in which the team which loses is out of the competition and doesn’t have another chance to play. The opposite of a league.

Knockout round

The part of a competition in which the team who loses is out and doesn’t have another chance to play, e.g. the semi-finals. The opposite of a group round.

League champions

The top team of the whole league (meaning the top team in the top division) at the end of the season. Usually the most prestigious title in the country.

Lift the trophy

(1) Hold the trophy above your head to show it to the fans (2) Win the competition


Not near the top or bottom of the division.

Mid-table obscurity

A team that is always in the middle of the division, e.g. because they often draw, and are therefore never in the dramatic situation of being likely to be promoted to a higher division or relegated to a lower one.

Next round

The part of the championship that you will progress to if you win a match, e.g. the semi-finals if you win the quarter finals.

Over two legs

Where two matches will decided the result- one at home and one away.


A special match to decide something that hasn’t been decided by the normal matches, e.g. which of the teams between third and sixth position in the division will be promoted.


If a team progress, they go on to the next round of a cup.


Allowed to go up to a higher division, for example by being the top team in your division or wining the playoffs.


Promotion is when a team goes up to a higher division.

Qualifying rounds

Matches that you have to play to get into a championship, for example playing other teams in your region for a chance to go to the World Cup finals.

Quarter finals

The stage before the semi finals, where eight teams play a match (or often two ties) to decide which four teams go forward to the next round.


A chart showing which teams are most likely to win a championship, often used to make sure that all the best teams are not put in one group.

Regional championship

A competition between the best sides of the same continent or region, for example the European Champions League.


Being forced to go down to a lower division, e.g. due to being the bottom team at the end of the season or losing the playoffs.

Relegation battle

(1) Have to make a great effort not to be relegated (2) A match with another team who might also be relegated, i.e. a six pointer.

Relegation zone

The places in the table which will mean being relegated to a lower division or having to go through playoffs to stay up.

Round robin play

Where every team in a group plays every other team.


The second placed team in a division or the losing team in a final.

Runners-up medal

An award for the runner-up in a final.

Semi finals

The matches that are played after the quarter finals to decide which two teams out of four will be in the final.


A way to say trophies, only usually used by journalists.

Stay up

Not be relegated, usually used because it was assumed you would go down.

Sunday league

An amateur competition that is run on Sundays, for example one in which pub sides play against each other. Often used as a simile to talk about bad play by professional teams.

The top flight

The highest level, e.g. "The Premiership is the top flight of English football". Often used in sentences wondering how good a player is, e.g. "Smith was the top scorer in the 2nd division last year, but there are doubts whether he has the skills to be successful in the top flight."

Toyota Cup

The traditional name for the match (and now championship) in which the regional champions play against each other to decide which the best club side in the world is. This is always a team from Europe or Latin America, being an unimportant trophy for the former and the most important one for the latter.


A cup etc that shows that you won a match or championship is a trophy.

Trophy cabinet

(1) The glass-fronted display cabinet that clubs show cups etc they have won in (2) Used as a metaphor for how many championships the club has won, e.g. "Liverpool’s trophy cabinet will be empty again this year"

Warm up

(1) Stretching exercises etc before a player starts playing (2) Matches before a championship to allow the team to practice playing together

World Cup

A competition once every four years to decide which national team is the best in the world (not necessarily the best team in the world see Toyota Cup). Also "FIFA World Cup", "Football World Cup" and World Cup Finals

World Cup Finals

Usually called just World Cup, it is officially called the World Cup Finals because the qualifying rounds count as earlier parts of the tournament.



The area is the rectangular part of the pitch near the goal within which the goalkeeper is allowed to use their hands to control the ball. More properly called the penalty area.

Artificial turf

Turf made from man-made materials rather than the usual grass. It is easier to maintain but difficult to play on and can injure players who fall on it


The box is the penalty box.

Box to box

A move that quickly goes from near one goal to the other end of the pitch.

Centre circle

The circle in the centre of the pitch, with a 10 yard radius centred on the centre spot. The kick off takes part at the centre of this, with players from the opposing side staying outside this circle until the whistle for kick off is blown.

Centre spot

The point right in the middle of the pitch where you kick off from.

Change ends

At half time, the teams have to switch which goal their goalkeeper plays in and so which goal they will try and score in (to avoid advantages from things such as wind direction and a sloping pitch)

Corner flag

The piece of fabric on a pole that mark the corners of the pitch.


The piece of wood that goes horizontally across the top of the goal, supported by the two posts. "The ball hit the crossbar" usually means that it was nearly a goal.

D (the)

The D is the normal colloquial name for the penalty arc, which players must stay outside while a penalty is being taken

Far post

The post that is furthest away from the person taking a shot at goal.


The piece of fabric on a pole that marking the corners of the pitch.

Flag post

The (traditionally wooden) post which marks the corner and has a fabric flag on it


Flank is another way to say wing- the side of the pitch.

Football pitch

The area that football is played on is the football pitch.

From 12 yards

From the penalty spot (12 yards is the distance from the goal to the penalty spot).


(1) The rectangular opening consisting of a horizontal crossbar supported by two bars, usually with a net behind. (2) Kicking the ball into the goal of the other team

Goal area

Official name for the six yard box.

Goal line

The line that goes through the goal and to the two corners, often mentioned when it is controversial whether the ball went into the goal or was saved.


The area very near the goal, especially right in front of it, and so an easy place to score from.


A longer but less common way of saying the (traditionally wooden) post at the side of the goal.

Near post

The post nearer the person who is going to shoot, pass, take a corner or free kick.


The mesh that is almost always put behind the goal, connected to the crossbar and posts then connected to the ground in some way behind. Often used to talk about scoring a goal, e.g. "in the back of the net".


The material that the net at the back of the goal is made from. Often mentioned to say that a cross hit the side of the goal, meaning that "hit the netting", which is a bad thing, is very different from "go into the back of the net", which is a goal.

Off his line

Used to explain that a goalkeeper is far from his own goal, making it easy for a striker to chip the ball over his head.

Collocations Caught +, Standing +


Not where you should be on the pitch


There being more players from the other side on the pitch or in a particular area of the pitch, e.g. near your goal.

Own half

The half of the pitch nearest to your goal.

Penalty arc

The official (but rarely used) name for the D

Penalty box

The area near the goal in which the goalkeeper may use his hands and a foul will result in a penalty kick.

Penalty spot

The point 12 yards from the goal from which penalty kicks are always taken.


The usual word for the area that football is played on.

NB, "Football pitch" but "Tennis court" and "Basketball court". "Football ground" means the stadium, not just the pitch

Pitch invasion

Fans rushing onto the pitch, for example to celebrate winning the match or to protest against a decision by the referee. This can result in the club being fined, or even the match being abandoned.


The two poles at the edges of the goal that hold up the crossbar, traditionally made from wood.

Six yard box

The smaller of the two boxes around the goal.

Soccer field

American English for football pitch.

Take the field

Come onto the pitch, either at the start of a game or as a substitute.


(1) The white line that goes all around the edge of the pitch, showing where the ball has to stay inside if it is not to be a throw-in, corner or goal kick (2) Often used to mean the area where the coach sits during the game, e.g. "Instructions came from the touchline to switch positions"


The grass (or artificial turf) on a pitch


The upright is an informal way to talk about the two posts at the edge of the goal, as they are vertical (unlike the horizontal crossbar).

Water-logged pitch

Rain which hasn’t disappeared from the grass yet, sometimes leading to a match being cancelled if it is very bad.


The sides of the pitch, furthest away from the goal and centre circle, and near the touchline. Comes from the wings of a bird or plane stretching left and right from their body.


The goalposts and crossbar, because they are traditionally made from wood.

Collocations Hit the +, Off the +

Wrong flank

The wrong flank is the side of the pitch that a player doesn’t usually play on, for example because they are left-foted, or because they have switched flanks during the game.

Players and Staff


Usually used to talk about the people who represent the players, e.g. during transfer negotiations

Assistant referee

The modern official name for a linesman. There are two assistant referees, who run up and down outside the sidelines, rather than around on the pitch. The assistant referees often decide if a player is offside or if the ball has gone out of play.


(1) Any player with the ball who is trying to move it towards the opposition's goal (2) A striker

B team

Another way to say reserves- a team of players who aren’t able to play in the senior team due to not being in form, etc, and who often play against reserves from other clubs for practice, sometimes in a dedicated league.

Back four

The back four are the defenders of a team.

Beat the keeper

If you beat the keeper, you score a goal.

Bench warmer

A player who is always a substitute and rarely used is a bench warmer.

Big man

A tall player, often used for an attacker in a team that plays long ball football.


A player who is given responsibility for organising the other players on the pitch

Central defenders

The one or (usually) two defenders who play near the middle of the pitch rather than on the wings.

Central midfield

Midfielders who play near the centre circle rather than on the wing.

Centre forward

The forward who plays nearest to the goal and so is often the target man.

Centre half

Another way to say central defender.


The businessman or woman who organises the business side of a football club, often someone who owns the club or has invested a lot of money in it. Higher up the chain of command than the manager, but much less involved in the day to day running of the club


Often confused with manager, as a modern football manager has a job similar to a coach in earlier times, and newspapers often use the terms as synonyms. A coach is often someone between a manager and a trainer, and deals with practical things connected to play, whereas a manager takes a more strategic role connected to picking a team, tactics etc.

Coaching staff

The non-playing parts of the team, such as the coach and masseurs.


Someone on radio or TV who explains the action to listeners or viewers

Dead ball specialist

Someone who is particularly good in dead ball situations, especially someone who is very good at free kicks.


A person whose main role is to stop the opposition’s attacking players from scoring and getting the ball near their goal

Defensive midfielder

A midfielder whose main role is to play deep or shield the defenders, i.e. whose main duties are defensive.


A formation in which the four midfield players play with two side by side and the other two on their own in front and behind.

Dreaded vote of confidence

A chairman saying that he has complete confidence in the manager or coach, "dreaded" because it is almost always followed by being fired.

Drop back

Players playing for a while closer to their own goal than usual, e.g. to defend against an attacking move or to defend a lead.

Engine room

Similar to a playmaker, but often used about a player who has that impact due to running and hard work.

Flair player

A player who is very skilful, for example being able to dribble, go past men or do the bicycle kick. Often used to suggest that the player isn’t so reliable or won’t do boring things like defend.

Flat back four

The defenders playing in (more or less) a straight line. The opposite of the sweeper system.


How the players are arranged on the pitch, e.g. 4-4-2


A more official way of saying striker.

Four four two

A formation with four defenders, four midfielders and two strikers.

Fourth official

A referee who watches the match on TV and can be asked to look at slow motion replays to make a difficult decision, e.g. whether the ball crossed the line.

Full backs

Wider defensive players, in contrast to central defenders.


A slang way of saying "boss", often used for a manager.


The nickname for Paul Gascgoigne, a creative but troubled former England player.

Gifted players

Often "Naturally gifted players". Very skilful and creative players. Often used about people who waste their talent.

Goal celebrations

The way in which players show their enjoyment at having scored a goal, e.g. dancing, embracing or pulling your shirt over your head. These are often individual to certain players or decided on before the goal is scored, but some goal celebrations such as over-long ones can be an offense

Goal hanger

An insulting term for a player who rarely goes back into their own half but instead stays very close to the opposition goal, mainly used in schoolboy football as they would often be offside in professional football


An common informal way to say goalkeeper.


A player who is allowed to use their hands to save the ball from going into the goal. They have to wear a different shirt from the other players, and usually wear gloves.

Golden generation

Used to describe lots of great players who just happen to be born in the same country at more or less the same time, perhaps shown by winning a youth championship, e.g. "Now that the Portuguese Golden Generation is aging, this is perhaps their last chance to win the World Cup".

Hairdryer treatment

The hairdryer teartment is a coach shouting at his team at half time if they are losing, used because you can imagine the air from their shouting mouth being like a hairdryer going over your face.

Holding midfielder

Another way to say defensive midfielder.

Home grown players

(1) Players who came up from the youth team rather than being bought from other teams (2) Players from the country they are playing in, the opposite of foreign players.

Hugging the touchline

Playing very wide.

Impact sub

A player who starts the game on the bench because they are likely to surprise the other team when they come on rather than because they aren’t good enough to be the manager’s first choice.

In form

Having a particularly productive period. Often used for strikers who have been scoring a lot of goals recently.


A common informal way to say goalkeeper.


A player who controls the game, usually a midfielder.


The traditional name for the two assistant referees who run up and down outside the sidelines, rather than around on the pitch like the referees. Linesmen often decide if a player is offside or if the ball has gone out of play.

Lone striker

A formation in which only one player stays close to the opposition goal.

Lose the dressing room

Lose the confidence of the players or start to have a bad relationship with them. Used about a manager, usually to explain why he is being sacked.

Man to man marking

A system in which each defender is given one attacking player from the other team that they have to stay close to. The opposite of zonal marking


Traditionally, someone who is in charge of picking a team, deciding on tactics, and buying and selling players, one level higher in management than a coach.

Match fit

Fit and healthy enough to play in a competitive game. Often used negatively for a player who was injured and has recovered but hasn’t trained enough to be able to play effectively.

Midfield anchor

Another way to say defensive midfielder.

Midfield diamond

A formation in which the four midfield players play with two side by side and the other two on their own in front and behind.


A player who plays near the centre of the pitch, between the defenders and the strikers.

On the bench

A substitute who does not play from the beginning of the game but might later.

Out and out striker

Someone who purely has the role of scoring goals, rather than tracking back for defence or setting up goals for others.

Outfield players

Every player but the goalkeeper.


Two players who play close to each other, e.g. two central midfielders.


Small, like an old-fashioned British milk bottle, used to describe players, especially strikers.


A common term for the kingpin.


(1) Where you play on the pitch, usually decided as part of a formation (2) The name for the position where you play, e.g. left back


A football expert, e.g. someone who analyses the match at half time rather than speaking all the way through like a commentator.

Purple patch

Another way to say in form, usually used about strikers.


A common short form for referee.

Regular first-team place

Usually being picked to play in the senior team, the aim for most players.

Right wing

Playing on the right edge of the pitch (from your own perspective), near the touchline.


Used to describe a defence that it is impossible to get the ball past, like trying to get through a rock wall.


A member of staff whose job it is to find new players for the club, for example by watching matches in lower divisions and trying to spot good players (especially young ones) to buy.

Shielding the defence

A midfielder helping to defend


New players, often bought from other clubs.

Special One (the)

The nickname for Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho.

Starting appearance

Playing from the beginning of a match, usually one better than being on the bench at the beginning of the game.

Starting line-up

The players who will be on the pitch from the first moment of the game.


A way of saying goalkeeper. Much less common than goalie and only usually used by journalists.

Stretchered off

Taken off the pitch on a kind of portable bed, usually because of a bad injury but also possibly just due to cramp.


An attacking player who plays near the opposition goal and whose main role is to score goals.


Short for substitute- a player who doesn't start the game but may come on to replace a player who leaves before the match has ended, because of injury, etc.


A player who starts the game on the bench and possibly replaces a tired or injured player during the match.

Super sub

A player who is on the bench because they are likely to surprise the other team when they come on rather than because they aren’t good enough to be the manager’s first choice.


A central defender with more flexibility to move backwards and forwards than other central defenders.

Target man

A out and out striker whose only job is to wait for other players to pass the ball to them and then score.


Someone just under the coach in the technical staff, who concentrates on teaching and practising techniques with the players.


Show a new player or manager to the media and fans, or tell them that a new person has been found, similar to taking the veil off the bride at a wedding.

Utility players

Players who can comfortably play in several positions, sometimes used in a negative way similar to "Jack of all trades".


A player with lots of experience, and perhaps quite old.


An abbreviation of "wives and girlfriends" that is used to be negative about the females who used to follow the England team around but were blamed for their bad performances.


Several defending players standing in a line between a direct free kick and the goal in order to make scoring more difficult.

Watertight defence

Players who don’t let goals be scored and maybe don’t let the ball through, like a dam stopping water.

Wing half

Short for "wing half back",  wing half isan old fashioned expression for a defensive midfielder who plays on the edges of the pitch.


One of the possible positions for a defender. A variation on the full back with more of an attacking role.


A player who spends most of their time on the edges of the pitch near the touchline.

Zonal marking

The system by which teams defend by each player taking responsibility for a particular area of the pitch. The opposite of man to man marking.


Association football

The official name of football, to contrast it with rugby football. The informal form soccer is a shortening of the word "association" in this expression

Automatic booking

A yellow or red card that the referee has to give due to the rules, with no place to make their own judgement on the matter, e.g. a late tackle from behind with studs up.


A common insult used for referees who have made a wrong decision, e.g. not seen a foul.


Being shown a yellow or redcard for doing something wrong, such as handball or a foul.

Bosman ruling

The European Court of Justice on the case of Belgian footballer Jean Marc Bosman, used in Bosman transfers.

Bring someone down

Tackle someone so that they fall on the ground. Often, but not always, a foul.


yellow cards and red cards given for breaking the rules of the game. Often used to show how badly one or both sides broke the rules during the match, e.g. "Last night’s match produced a record 12 cards, including 4 red ones, for the two sides"


A caution is a warning by the referee that you are doing something wrong. Usually followed by a yellow card or red card if you do the same thing again.

Clean tackle

Taking the ball from someone without it being a foul.


What the referee decides, for example whether a player was offside and so whether a goal should be disallowed or not.


Points taken off a team’s total for the season (so far) for breaking the rules, for example illegally tapping players, bribing referees, going bankrupt, or throwing a match.

Deliberate hand ball

Most hand balls just involve the ball accidentally hitting someone on the hand or lower arm, but players sometimes try to use their hands or arms to control the ball. See HAND OF GOD for a famous example.

Direct free kick

A free kick that will count as a goal if it goes into the net without touching any other players. The opposite of indirect free kick.

Dirty match

A match that has many fouls and so probably many cards given in it

Disallowed goal

When the ball goes into the net but the referee says it was not a goal, for example because a player was offside.

Disciplinary record

How many yellow cards and redcards a player has got, recently or over their career.


Arguing too much with the referee, for example after a card is given. This can lead to a red card or other punishment.


A player pretending that they have been fouled and falling over so that they can get a freekcick, penalty or even a booking for a player on the other team. This is an offense and will lead to a card for the attacking player if the referee decides that it is a dive rather than a foul.


The ultimate punishment, meaning that a player has to leave the pitch for the rest of the game and usually also miss future games


The FA is the  (English) Football Association, the English member of FIFA, in charge of all divisions below the Premiership, and the national side.


The International Federation of Association Football (French: Fédération Internationale de Football Association), in charge of international football such as the World Cup. Pronounced as it was one word, like "feefer"

Five a side

A form of football with only 10 players in total on the pitch, which is usually smaller than a regulation pitch.


Gamemanship is unsportsmanlike behaviour- doing something that is allowed by the rules, but is unfair or goes against the spirit of the game.


(1) Kicking at other players’ legs, often used for someone who is trying to get the ball but is so unskilful that they often foul people, but also for deliberate fouls (2) Kicking at the ball in a more hopeful than skilful way.

Hand ball

A foul in which the ball hits the hand or lower parts of the arm.

Collocations deliberate +, intentional +

Handling outside the area

A goalkeeper using his hands outside the area near the goal where he is allowed to, leading to a free kick for the other side.

Indirect free kick

A free kick which must hit another player before it goes into the net in order to count as a goal. Usually a lesser punishment that a direct free kick.

Late tackle

Trying to tackle a player after they have already shot or passed the ball to someone else, and therefore knocking into them rather than the ball. An offense, often leading to a card.

Mistimed tackle

Trying to tackle someone before or after they have the ball, usually leading to a foul. Usually means a late tackle.

Niggling fouls

Very small fouls, which are more likely to annoy than to lead to a yellow card.


Deliberately standing somewhere to stop a player from running where they need to go, an offence likely to lead to a free kick.

Offside rule

The rule that aims to stop goal hanging by forcing players to receive the ball further towards their own goal than the opposing side’s defenders. Not understanding the offside rule is often stated as proof of women not really appreciating football.

Offside trap

Defenders running forward to force the opposing striker into an offside position and so making sure the game is stopped and they get possession. If this tactic goes wrong it usually leaves the striker only needing to beat the goalkeeper to score.

On a yellow card

Having to be careful not to foul anyone etc. because you already have a yellow card (in that match or a previous match) and so will have to miss the rest of that match and/ or the next match if you get another yellow card.

Opening goal

The first goal of the match, making the score 1-0 or 0-1

Play on

A signal from the referee that the players shouldn’t stop to take a free lick but instead keep on playing, usually because they have the ball and are in a good position and so just as likely to score as they would be if they were given a free kick.

Professional foul

A deliberate foul that is difficult for the referee to spot or is meant to injure an important player on the other side.

Red card

The ultimate punishment, meaning that a player has to leave the pitch for the rest of the game and usually also misses some future games.

Regulation ball

A ball that has been certified by FIFA for use in official matches, and therefore good practice to play with when the regulations are changed or if you want to play professional football.

Regulation pitch

A pitch whose size is within the limits set by FIFA, and so good practice for top level football. Similar to "Olympic size swimming pool" in swimming.

Regulation time

90 minutes, to which injury time is added to decide on the actual length of the match.


A sending-off is a red card- when a player has to leave the pitch for the rest of the game.

Shirt tugging

Pulling at a player’s shirt to restrict their ability to move. A minor offence.


Short for "Association Football", in contrast to "Rugby Football". Used by American to contrast with American Football, which they call "football". Generally avoided by Brits nowadays, as they hate sounding like Americans and so prefer the term footie.


Not doing something that is within the rules of the game but goes against the spirit of the game is sportsmanlike behaviour.


Step on a player who is on the ground, usually meaning deliberately and quite hard, and so often a red card offence.

Studs up

Tackling or trying to trap the ball with the sole of your boot pointing towards another player, leading to a great danger of injuring another player and therefore likely to lead to a card.


The time when a player has been deiscplined and cannot play for a team, for example because they got a red card or several yellow cards, e.g. "Davids is serving a two month suspension for a positive drugs test"

Throw a match

Deliberately lose a match, for example because you have bet against yourself or because you want the team you are playing against to get the points and so defeat another team that you want to be eliminated. A very serious offense that could lead to a team being relegated.


When the referee flips a coin to decide which sides of the pitch each team plays in during the first half and which team kicks off.

Two-footed tackle

A dangerous way of trying to get the ball off someone where both legs are aimed towards them at the same time, similar to a wrestling move, often resulting in a red card.

Unintentional hand ball

The ball hitting your hand or lower parts of your arm accidentally. This is still likely to lead to a free kick, but not to a card.

Unsportsmanlike behaviour

Doing something that is within the rules of the game but is still unfair, for example not telling the referee when you know the goal went in off your hand.


(1) The small metal instrument that the referee and assistant referees use to get people’s attention and indicate things like a foul and offside (2) The sound of that instrument (3) Disapproving noises from the crowd, usually together with boos

Yellow card

A yellow piece of card which the referee takes out of his or her pocket to show to a player who has done something quite bad such as committing a bad foul or handball, but not as bad as a red card offence like fighting. A yellow card often goes together with another punishment such as a free kick. Two yellow cards in one match means a red card, and two yellow cards over a certain period means a suspension.

Stadium or Ground


A stadium with no standing room on the terraces where everyone must sit down instead. All British grounds in the top divisions have to be all-seaters due to safety concerns.


Playing away from your home ground at the ground of the opposition. The opposite of home.

Changing rooms

The place where the players change into and out of their kit, take a shower etc. Also locker room and dressing room.

Dressing room

The place where the players get changed before and after a match. It is also called the changing room and locker room.

Executive box

A luxurious area in which the chairman of the club, rich businessmen etc can watch the match and socialise in comfort.


A more common way to say stadium.

Home ground

The stadium of your team.

Kop (the)

The nickname for some stands that are built on a slope, most famously the liveliest stand at Liverpool’s ground Anfield.

Locker room

Another way to say changing room or dressing room.

National stadium

The usual venue for cup finals, international matches etc, e.g. Wembley in the UK.

Neutral venue

A stadium that is not the home ground of either side, used because there has been crowd violence or because the political situation makes it impossible to play in one of the home grounds.

Season ticket

A ticket with which you can see all the home games of your club, usually with one designated seat number.


One section of the stadium, e.g. one side of the rectangle. Often the four stands have different names. See Kop for an example.

Training ground

Where the players practise.


The tunnel is the space just before the pitch that players stand in lines in after coming out of the changing rooms. This expression is often used to talk about negative things like tension (or even fights) between the two teams, or feeling nervous before a big match.


(1) The revolving barrier that only lets people who have shown their ticket into the ground (2) Used in expressions to show how many people attended the match, e.g. "10,000 people came through the turnstiles"


The most famous stadium in London, national stadium of England and home of most important English finals but not the home ground of any team.

Supporters and Fans

Away fans

Supporters of the team that is not playing at their own ground, almost always fewer in number than the home fans


A long piece of cloth that has a message written on it and is usually supported at both ends by poles. It is displayed by the crowd to support particular players, protest decisions by the management, etc.

Boo (n/v)

A noise made by the fans to show disapproval.


Songs that spectators sing or shout during the match, often based on other songs and supporting or making fun of a particular player.


A supporter of a particular club. Although fan comes from the word fanatic, their modern meanings are very different.


Someone who is too obsessed with a particular team, an extreme fan.


A magazine (usually more like a newsletter) written by and published by fans, often critical of the club management and sold by people in the street outside the stadium before a game


A firmis a slang way of referring to a gang of football hooligans.

Follow a team

If you follow a team, you support a particular side.

Home fans

Supporters of the team who is playing at their own stadium.


A "football fan" whose main aim is violence.

Lockout match

A match in which no fans are allowed, for example because there was problems with violence or racist chanting in a previous match.

Official supporters’ club

A supporters' club organised by the football club


The referee and linesmen are the oifficials- the people who control a game.


A fashion style with very short hair and often tattoos, tight jeans and Doctor Marten boots, associated with hooligans and extreme right wing groups.


A more official way of saying a fan.

Supporters’ club

A group of fans who exchange information about the club, travel to away matches together, etc.

There's only one

A popular football chant, meaning that the player is unique (usually genuine, but sometimes sarcastically).



Nickname for the Italian national side, meaning "the Blues" due to the colour of their strip.

Bafana Bafana

The nickname for the South African team, meaning "The Boys".


The Blues is a nickname for the English side Birmingham City, due to the colour of their home strip.

Club side

The team that players usually play for, in contrast to the national side.


When it is decided which of the players won’t be on the team sheet for the forthcoming match or championship, e.g. when a World Cup coach leaves out seven players of the original list of thirty in order to only take 23 to the championship,those seven players don't make the cut.


A match between sides who play in grounds that are close to each other, for example in the same or neighbouring towns

Dirty team

A team that fouls the other team a lot, or even aims to injure people.

First team

Another way to say senior team.


Start to work well as a team, similar to form a good rapport.

Get the nod

Be chosen to play in a match, as if the players were standing in a line and the manager was choosing them one by one by nodding his head to indicate a player or say yes.

Giant killers

A team that has beaten a team from much higher in the league, e.g. a non-league team beating a team in the Premiership and eliminating them from the FA Cup.

Gunners (the)

Nickname for English side Arsenal, as "arsenal" means a place where guns are stored.


The Hammers is the nickname for the English side West Ham.


Often used to talk about a team who don’t have excellent skills but still win or draw through determination, good teamwork, hard work etc.


Rich, successful, big and/ or historic sides. The opposite of minnows. From boxing, as if a flyweight boxer was asked to step into the ring with a much bigger and heavier fighter.

Home nations

England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, as the UK is the "home of football"

Home team

The team who are playing in their own stadium.


A small or weak team, named after a small fish that is common in British ponds.

National side

A common expression for the national team. The opposite of club side

National team

The team that represents the whole country, e.g. the teams that compete in the World Cup.

Non-league side

In England, teams which are lower than the Second Division and so cannot play in the league cup until they are promoted.


The opposition is a common way to talk about the team that you are playing against.

Other side

The other side (or team) means the team that you are playing against.


A physical team or physical match is one in which there is a lot of reliance on physical force. Often a euphemism for lots of fouls.

Pub side

A team that represents a particular pub in a local league, often a Sunday league, and which usually consists of regular customers. Used as an insulting way of talking about a bad professional football side.


Pronounced like "rey-al", this is the usual way of referring to Real Madrid in English-speaking countries. In Spain, Real Madrid is simply "Madrid" (Atletico Madrid being "Atletico"), while "Real" is short for Real Sociedad.

Red Devils

Nickname for Manchester United and the Korean national side.

Reduced to ten men

Playing with only ten people in your team after a red card, usually making it difficult to win the game.

Reserve team

A team of players who aren’t playing in the senior team, who often play against reserves from other clubs for practice, sometimes in a dedicated league.


A team of players who aren’t able to enter the senior team due to not being in form, etc, who often play against reserves from other clubs for practice, sometimes in a dedicated league.


The Seagulls is nickname for the excellent but surprisingly little known English side Brighton and Hove Albion.

Senior team

The top team within one club, the opposite of the youth team or reserve team.


A team, e.g. "The manager says he is finally happy with the side he has put together for this season."


The nickname for English side Tottenham Hotspur, from the last syllable of their name. The original meaning of "spurs" is the spiked things that horse riders wear on their shoes.


The players on a team

Team sheet

The list of the starting lineup and substitutes, often released as late as possible to stop the other team knowing exactly which players they will be playing against.

Weakened team

Not the best 11 players that the club have, for example because they are resting some of them or some of them are injured.

World XI

A real or imaginary selection of the 11 best players at that time in the world.



A short form of After Extra Time

After extra time

The score after 90 minutes plus an extra thirty minutes, because the score was even after 90 minutes


Being able to predict what will happen next, for example where a striker will try to score.

Changes at half time

Substitutions that happen during the 15 minute half time break.

Closing minutes/Closing seconds

The last few minutes or seconds of a match, often with one side desperately attacking to make up for a deficit.

Domestic football season

The part of the year when teams play in competitions in their own country, often with tours to other countries beforehand and with European and other international finals afterwards

Early bath

A humorous way of saying a red card, because you will go back to the locker room before the other players.

Extra time

Play continuing after the regulation time of 90 minutes because the scores are even and so the winner is not yet decided. Golden goal is a particular kind of extra time.

First half

The first 45 minutes of a match (plusinjury time), followed by a break.

Game of two halves

Football is a game of two halves is a  clichéd expression to say that games often change in the second half, for example because of something the coaxh has said, a change in tactics, or a substitution.

Half time

The 15 minute break after the first (approximately) 45 minutes of play.

Injury time

If the match has to stop while injured players get back up, are treated or are stretcher off, the time this takes will be added onto the end of the first half or the end of the match, meaning that an average match is actually 93 minutes rather than 90 minutes.


A less common way to talk about the half time break, only usually used by journalists.

Kick off time

The time the match will start, traditionally 3 o’clock in the afternoon.

Pivotal moment

A moment that changed the whole game, e.g. a goal which gave a team confidence, a red card or an injury.

Regular season

The dates that most teams will have to play games, e.g. between September and April or May in most European countries. The dates for playoffs, the Champions League final, World Cup etc are before or after this, so are said to fall outside the regular season.


Similar to an academic year for a university, e.g. "The 2008-2009 season ran from late August 2008 to May 2009".

Second half

The second period of 45 minutes of the game after the fifteen-minute half time break..

Stoppage time

A more official way to say the injury time that is played at the end of each half of the match.


Times when play is unexpectedly interrupted, e.g. waiting for injured players to get off the pitch or get up and start playing again.

Summer tours

European club sides visiting Asia, America etc to raise money and get match fit before the beginning of the new season (usually in late August or September)

Swan song

The final match or competition of a player, usually one who has had a distinguished history.


The speed at which the game is played.


How long a manager or coach stays in one job.

Time added on

How long the match will be played after the regulation time of 90 minutes, mainly due to play being stopped due to injuries during the match.

Time wasting

A team who is in the lead or playing for a draw taking a long time to take goal kicks etc so the other team cannot score. A bookable offence that could lead to a yellow card.

Winter break

A time around Christmas when some leagues have no matches.

Transfers and Money

Benefit match

A match where the profits go towards a charity or a player’s retirement.

Bid for a player

A team saying how much they would pay the team that a player has a contract with if that player was to transfer to their club.

Big-money signing

A player that the club had to pay a lot of money in transfer fees for.


A very common short form of bookmaker, a person who takes bets on the results.


A person or company who takes bets. In the UK, bookmakers will take bets on anything apart from when someone is likely to die, so you could bet today on David Beckham’s son being in the England team one day

Bosman (transfer)

A free transfer of a player who has come to the end of their contract, possible due to a ruling by the European Court of Justice on the case of Belgian footballer Jean Marc Bosman.

Coin toss

When the referee flips a coin to decide which ends of the pitch each team plays in during the first half and who kicks off. 

Free transfer

A player moving from one team to another without the new club needing to pay tranfer fees, for example as a Bosman transfer at the end of their contract.


Letting one of your players play for another club, sometimes because you hope to sell them later and sometimes to give them practice.


How likely you are to win a match, e.g. "The odds are against Spurs winning the next match in their league campaign". From betting.

Open talks

Start negotiating with a player or team about purchasing someone


Public Limited Company. A British company that anyone can buy the shares of, similar to an American corporation. Many English Premiership clubs are PLCs and so need to worry about keeping their share price high and being taken over.


A way of betting on football results, similar to a lottery

Secure the services of

Have a player join your team, e.g. by buying them from another club.

See out his contract

Play with one club for the year or two until your contract period comes to an end rather than transferring to another club, either to retire when your contract comes to an end or to go to another club on a Bosman (free) transfer and so increase your wages.

Severance package

The money that a team has to pay a manager who is still under contract to fire .

Shirt sponsors

Companies who pay for their company name to be printed on a team’s shirts

Sign a player

Have a player join your team, e.g. by buying them from another club.

Signing-on fee

The money that a player gets when they transfer from one team to another.


Advertisers whose money goes to the team, e.g. shirt sponsors.

Summer signings

Players bought during the time when there are no championships in Europe, the most popular time for such deals.

Tapping a player

Illegal approaches to a player who is under contract with another club, as agents and other clubs have to ask the present club’s permission before talking to their players. The expression comes from the idea of tapping someone on the shoulder.


Buying or moving a player from another club.

Transfer fee

The money one club has to pay another to buy a player who is still under contract.

Transfer window

If there is a time when teams cannot buy or sell players (usual nowadays), a short time in the middle where they can do so.

Wanted list

A jokey way of talking about which players a manager wants to buy, similar to a poster showing criminals who the police want to arrest.