Favorites Edit

Football Terminology: A Complete & Unabridged Glossary

Liam Flin
3.38K   //    21 Oct 2016, 19:52 IST
Bicycle Kick
Bicycle kick - A move in which a player throws their body into the air and falls backwards while kicking the ball so that it travels behind them

Contrary to common belief, football can actually be a very intellectual game. From tactical genius to plugging loopholes in player contracts, it is as much about using your head as your feet and for the sport’s connoisseurs, getting caught up in a heated debate is incredibly appealing.

If you fit this bracket, then this article could quickly become your go-to-guide for football jargon to use when putting forward an argument. Alternatively, if you’ve felt well out of your depth when around your friends, all of whom adore the game and are throwing opinions around like nobody’s business, yet you still can’t explain the offside rule, then this is essential for keeping you up with the conversation. 


Academy – A set-up by clubs in which they develop young talent with the aim of transitioning such players into their first team in the future. 

Actor- A term used to criticise a player who deliberately simulates a foul or injury in order to earn a free-kick or penalty, or to waste time.

Additional Time – Minutes added onto the end of either half which are calculated based on how much time is used up during stoppages in play.

Administration- A state a club enters should it be unable to pay its creditors, which allows it time to rebuild and restructure its debt.

Advantage- The referee may choose to play ‘advantage’ when a player is fouled if the continuation of play is more promising for the attacking team than if a free-kick or penalty was awarded.

AFC – ‘Asian Football Confederation’ – the governing football body for the continent of Asia.

Against the run of play – Used to describe a situation where a team is successful, perhaps by scoring in, winning or drawing a game, in which the opposition was dominant.

Aggregate (Score) – The total number of goals a team scores across two games played against the same side home and away.

All-seater stadium- A venue where there are only individual seats instead of benches or standing zones.

Anchorman- A midfield player who operates in front of the defence and whose primary role is to break down attacks from the opposition.

Apertura and Clausura- A league set-up used in Latin American regions in which the traditional league season from August to May is split up into two separate league tournaments, each with its own eventual winner.

Armband- These are worn by a player to symbolise their role as captain of a team. Black armbands are worn to commemorate a recent death or deaths in the game.

ASL- American Soccer League- first official football league in U.S.A.

Assist- A pass which directly leads to a goal being scored.

Assistant Referee- A match official on the sideline with a flag who aids the referee’s decisions through a game.

Astro Turf- An alternative playing surface made of artificial grass.

Attacker- A player whose role is primarily offensive and who must create goal-scoring opportunities.

Away from home- When a team play’s another team at the opposition’s ground and not their own.

Away goals rule- Can be used to determine the outcome of a game in which the score is level. If the score over two games is level, the team which scores more goals away from home is the winner.


B-team – A reserve team in which players who potentially aren’t of the age and/or ability to play for the first team play.

Back-four- Describes the defence in a team playing with four defenders.

Back-heel- A pass between two players in which the passer of the ball uses the back of their foot/ heel to roll the ball behind them.

Back-pass rule- When a player passes the ball back to their goalkeeper and the keeper picks up and holds the ball then a free-kick is awarded to the opposition wherever the ball was picked up.

Backs to the wall- Describes a situation in which a team’s complete focus is defending and in which nearly every player is in their own half for said team.

Ball boy- Children who sit around the edge of the pitch and who must collect the ball when it goes out of play.

Ball-to-hand- Excuses a handball because the ball was played against an individual’s hand and they were unable to stop it from happening.

Ballon D’Or – Awarded to the player voted the best in the world for a particular year.

Be Sidelined- When a player isn’t selected for a game either because they are suffering from an injury or because the manager chooses not to field them.

Behind closed doors- When a game is played without the presence of supporters. It could come as a result of poor fan behaviour and can be made either by a governing body or the club itself.

Bench- Where the substitutes sit during a match.

Bicycle kick- A move in which a player throws their body into the air and falls backwards while kicking the ball so that it travels behind them.

Bogey Team- A side of any quality which a team consistently loses to or fails to beat.

Booking- When the referee acknowledges a foul or cautionable offence by awarding a yellow card to the offender.

Bosman Ruling- Enables footballers in the European Union to move freely to another club when their contract with their existing club expires.

Box- Can be either six-yard box or penalty box. Refers to the rectangle marked out with white lines to inform the goalkeeper how far they may travel with the ball in their hands.

Boxing Day fixtures- An annual football feast in which every team in the English Premier League plays on Boxing day.

Box-to-box midfielder- A midfielder who plays both an attacking and defensive role in a game and often covers more distance than any other individual on the pitch.

Brace- When a player scores two goals in a game.

Break- Also known as ‘counter attack’. This is when a team’s players regain possession from the opposition deep in their own half and initiate an attack at pace in which they outnumber the opposition’s defenders at the other end.

Bundesliga- The name given to the highest division of competitive football in Germany.

Business end of the season- Refers to the final handful of fixtures in a season where relegations, playoffs, league winners and overall positions can be decided.

Byline- The lines/markings at the shorter ends of the pitch which run from the goalposts to the corner flags.


CAF- Confederation of African Football – the governing body for football in the continent of Africa.

Cagey affair- Describes a game which is tightly contested.

Cap- One is earned when a player makes an appearance for their international team.

Capitalise on an error- When an individual makes a mistake, either by conceding a foul or giving the ball away, and an opposition player makes the most of it, potentially by creating a chance or scoring a goal.

Capitan- A player who organises and leads the team on the field. They are involved in the coin toss at the start of a game.

Caretaker manager- Takes charge of organising a football team’s lineup in the absence of the usual manager. Often present following the sacking of the club’s first-team manager.

Caution- Essentially a yellow card given when an offence or foul is committed by a player. 

Centre-back / Centre-half- A defender who plays in the middle of the defence.

Centre circle- A circle with a radius of 10-yards which surrounds the centre spot. At kick-off, opposing players may not enter this circle until the ball has been kicked to signal the start of play.

Centre spot- The spot on which the ball is placed at the beginning of the game.

Challenge- Another word for ‘tackle’.

Champions League- A domestic, European competition in which 32 teams from the continent’s biggest leagues compete to be named the best club football side in Europe. The tournament begins with a group stage, followed by the last sixteen, the quarter-finals, the semi-finals and the final. It is a UEFA competition.

Championship- The second division in English football. Can also refer to any league.

Chip- When a player positions the end of their foot underneath the ball with the aim of lifting it into the air at a high trajectory.

Christmas tree formation- A set up used by teams which consists of four defenders, five midfielders and one striker. It is considered to look like a ‘christmas tree’ from an aerial view’.

Clean sheet- When a team does not concede a goal in a game.

Clearance- When a player kicks the ball away from their own goal, perhaps to prevent the opposition the chance of scoring.

Clinical finishing- When a player is accurate at shooting and scores with the majority, if not all, of their chances.

Comeback- Involves a team, which was previously losing, reversing the scoreline to win or levelling it to draw.

Community Shield- The annual ‘curtain raiser’ to the English football season in which the winner of the previous season’s Premier League plays against the winner of the FA Cup.

CONCACAF- Confederation of North Central American and Carribean Association Football – the governing body in these regions.

Consolation goal- Scored but has little relevance to the outcome of the game because the team which scores it is already losing by too great a margin for it to have an impact.

Copa Libertadores- A tournament competed in by the winners of top domestic leagues across South America – their equivalent to the UEFA Champions League.

Corner (kick)- Taken within a one-yard radius of the corner flag, it is a kick which resumes play when the ball has passed the byline, touching a defending player or the goalkeeper last.

Counter attack- See break.

Cross- When the ball is played into the penalty box, usually from the area of the pitch between the sideline and the edge of the penalty box facing the sideline.

Crossbar- The horizontal bar at the top of a goal.

Cruyff Turn- A manoeuvre created by Dutch football legend Johan Cruyff in which one foot plays the ball sideways behind the standing foot of the player.

Cup Tied- When a player is unable to make an appearance in a cup fixture because they have played a match in the competition for another side previously that same season.

Cup Upset- When a team not expected to win (an underdog) triumphs against the odds and beats a team that is expected to win.

Custodian- Another name for a ‘goalkeeper’.

Cut inside- When a player, usually who plays out wide, dribbles with the ball into a more central position at pace.


Dark horses- A team which is neither tipped as the favourites nor expected to do amazingly well, but which has the potential to triumph and could cause an upset. 

Dead ball- Used to describe a circumstance where a game is resumed and the ball is stationary.

Debut- A player’s first appearance for a club or nation or in a competition.

Deep- Describes the defensive region of the pitch. Players are ‘sitting deep’ if they are positioned around and just in front of their own penalty area.

Defence / Defender- A player or players whose role in the game involves stopping the opposition from scoring by making tackles, interceptions and winning headers. They sit just in front of the goalkeeper.

Deflection- When a shot or pass makes contact with another body (or even object) and its course/ trajectory is altered as a result.

Delivery- Another term used for a long pass, especially when talking about crosses or set-pieces.

Derby- A match contested between two teams which are based in the same location or in nearby locations, or between two rivals.

Dink- Another term used for a lofted shot/ pass or chip.

Direct Free-Kick- Awarded to a team if they are victim to a ‘penal’ foul. They may score directly from this opportunity.

Disallowed Goal- When a goal is scored but not awarded by the match officials, potentially because a foul, offside or handball occured in the build-up to it.

Dissent- This breaches the Laws of the Game and involves a player using offensive language or gestures towards a match official.

Diving- When a player simulates a foul or injury in order to receive a free-kick or penalty.

Double- Term used to describe the achievement of winning the domestic league and cup in the same season.

Draw (cup) – When a set of fixtures for the next round of a cup competition are decided.

Draw (result)- When two teams score the same number of goals in a game.

Dressing room- Alternative title given to a ‘changing room’, where players prepare before a game.

Dribbling- When a player runs, usually at pace, with the ball at their feet and they play it forward in front of them.

Drop ball- Used to restart play when a player has picked up an injury and the game has stopped while the ball was in play.

Dugout- The area occupied by substitutes and the manager during a game.


Edge out- To beat an opponent by a small margin.

El Classico- Title given to the fierce Spanish derby contested in by FC Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Elevator Team- Also known as ‘yo-yo’ team – a side which is regularly relegated and promoted to and from two divisions.

End to End- Used to describe a game in which both teams are attacking frequently.

Eredivisie- The name given to the highest division of competitive football in the Netherlands.

Equaliser- Name given to a goal which levels the score in a game.

European Night- A game in a European competition which takes place in the evening/ night.

Exhibition Match- A match between two teams where there is no competitive value- i.e. a friendly.

Extra Time- An additional thirty minutes after the initial ninety to decide a game which is level.

Eye for goal- A trait given to a player who is able to frequently score goals or shoot accurately when given the opportunity.


FA- Football Association – the governing body of football in England.

FA Cup- A knockout cup competition contested by English professional league clubs – the oldest cup competition in the world.

False Nine- A centre forward who drops back to play in an advanced midfield role to disrupt opposition tactics and provide the midfield with an extra body.

Fans- A group of people who support and follow a football team.

Fan’s favourite- A player who is particularly popular among supporters of their club.

Favourite- Term given to a team expected to win a match.

Feeder Club- A team that provides a group of from one club with the opportunity for first-team football, with the view that the best individuals will be given the opportunity to move on in future.

Feign Injury- To pretend that a foul resulted in a serious injury when it did not, in order to earn a free-kick/ penalty or get an opposition player booked or sent off.

Fergie Time- A concept suggesting that Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United received especially generous amounts of additional time at the end of a game when they were in a losing position.

FIFA- Fédération Internationale de Football Association – the world governing body of the sport.

Fifty-Fifty- When a player tackles an opposition player and there is about a fifty percent chance that they will win the ball.

Final Whistle- Refers to when the referee blows the whistle to signal the end of the game.

Finish- The final shot at the end of a manoeuvre.

First eleven- The preferred, and supposedly best, eleven players a manager will choose.

First touch- An action made by a player which involves controlling the ball upon receiving it.

Fixture List- A comprehensive list of games that a club will play over the course of a season or shorter time period.

Flagged Offside- When a play is caught in an offside position and a match official on the sideline raises his flag to signal that a free-kick must be taken by the other team from this point.

Flat back four- When four defenders are positioned in a straight line across the pitch horizontally, potentially in order to catch the opposition offside.

Flick on- A player uses their foot or head to touch a pass they’ve received with the aim of quickly feeding the ball through to another team-mate instead of controlling the ball.

Fluke- When something happens by chance or via luck and benefits a player or team.

Football- Refers to either the sport itself or the spherical ball used to play the sport with.

Football Programme- A programme given to fans outside/ inside a stadium on match-day, containing interviews and team information.

Form is temporary; class is permanent- A saying which implies that even though a player may not have performed well recently, they should not be judged on this alone because the natural ability of a player outweighs how they play over a short spell.

Formation- The line-up of players and which positions of the pitch they occupy.

Foul- A breach in the Laws of the Game; players who commit one are penalised through the opposition being awarded a free-kick or penalty.

Fourth Official- The fourth member of a game’s group of officials, whose primary role is to indicate to the fans, players and managers how much additional time is to be played, but who can also step in as linesman or referee, should one of them not be able to continue during a game.

Fox in the box- A predatory description of a forward who lurks in the penalty area to receive the ball in a goal-scoring position.

Free-kick- Awarded to players who are fouled outside of the penalty area. They can either be indirect or direct.

Free transfer- When a player moves from one club to another and no transfer fee is paid.

Friendly- See exhibition match.

Full-back- Term given to a player who plays on either the right or left side of defence whose role is to limit the danger from the opposition via their wide attacking players.

Full-time- Either describes the end of a game or a manager/ player who works for one club permanently.


Gaffer- Slang term given to a team’s manager.

Game of two halves- Expression describing a game where one team dominates one half, and the other dominates the other half.

Giant-killing- Describes when an underdog, a team not expected to win, betweens the team expected to win.

Give-and-Go- Also known as a ‘one-two’. Involves a player passing to a team-mate, who then controls the ball and plays it back to the player they received the ball from.

Goal- When the ball crosses the goal-line. This adds one to the team’s score.

Goal difference- The overall difference between the number of goals scored by a team and the number of goals they’ve conceded. 

Goal hanger- See fox in the box.

Goalkeeper- A player’s whose position is on the goal-line and in the penalty area. Their role is to prevent the opposition from scoring- they are able to use their hands to do this.

Goal-kick- Taken by goalkeeper to restart play after the ball has crossed the byline and the last touch was from a player on the attacking team.

Goal-line clearance- When a player plays the ball away on the goal-line.

Goal-line technology- Used to inform the match officials whether or not the ball has crossed the goal-line.

Goalless- When no goals are scored in a game.

Goalmouth- The area of the pitch in front of the goal, encompassing the penalty area.

Goal of the Century- Label given to Diego Maradona’s second goal against England in the 1986 World Cup.

Goalpost- The vertical bars that make up the goal.

Golden Goal- A method used in the past to decide the outcome of a game level at ninety minutes. Dictates that the first team to score in extra time will win the game.

Group of Death- When a group in the group stage of a competition contains four teams of very strong ability.


Half chance- An opportunity where a player could have scored but the chance was a difficult one to take.

Half-time- An interval, usually of around fifteen minutes, taken between the two halves of a match.

Half-volley- A shot or pass struck by a player at the same moment a ball drops and makes contact with the ground.

Handball- When a player intentionally uses their arm or hand to make contact with the ball. A foul is awarded against the player if it is spotted by the match official.

Hang up your boots- Phrase used to describe when a player retires from football.

Hat-trick- When a player scores three goals in one game.

Header- When a player makes contact with the ball using their head to either control it, make a pass or head at goal.

High Foot- Describes a breaching of the Laws of the Game in which an individual elevates their foot so high that it is deemed dangerous to the opposition and a foul is awarded against the offender.

Holding Midfielder- A midfield player who sits in front of and protects the defence.

Hold up the ball- When a player, usually a forward, controls the ball and uses their body to shield it from their opponent to allow other offensive players time to find space to receive the ball.

Hole- An area between the midfielders and forwards, where attacking midfielders can operate.

Hooligans- Die-hard supporters who are renowned for being violent and aggressive.

Hot seat- Used to describe the position of a manager at a football club, usually when it is a high-pressure position.

Howler- When a player misses a relatively easy opportunity in front of goal.


IFAB – International Football Association Board- in charge of creating the ‘Laws of the Game’ for association football.

Inch-perfect- Describes a pass which goes directly to another team-mate with utmost precision and they don’t need to rapidly change direction in order to receive the ball.

Indirect Free-Kick- Awarded to victims of ‘non-penal’ fouls; a goal may not be scored directly from one.

Injury crisis- When a large number of a team’s players are suffering from injury at one time.

Injury time- Another term for ‘extra time’.

Inside forward- A player who operates behind the main striker or centre-forward in a similar position to that of an attacking midfielder.

Interception- When a player makes contact with and controls a pass made between two opposing team-mates.

International break- When no top-flight domestic league football is played over the course of a week or weekend because international friendlies or qualfiers are taking place.

It’s the hope that kills you- A cynical phrase suggesting that it may be better for teams to not have hope or aspiration because falling short of these is far worse for morale than not having any ambition in the first place.


Jabulani- Name given to the infamous ball used at the 2010 World Cup, criticised by many for its unpredictable flight.

Journeyman- Term used to describe a player who has played for multiple clubs over the course of their career.


Keeper- See ‘goalkeeper’.

Keepie-Uppie- Also known as ‘kick-ups’. Involves juggling the ball and keeping it off the ground using your feet; in some cases it also involves the use of an individual’s knees, chest and shoulders.

Kick-and-rush- A direct tactic employed in football, also known as the ‘long ball’, which involves a long cross being sent down the field up to a, usually tall, striker. It is a quicker method of getting the ball from defence to attack than shorter passes.

Kick-off- Term given to the start of a match or its resumption.

Kill the ball- When a player controls the ball by placing their foot on it upon receiving it which stops the ball from moving at that moment.

Also Read: 15 football terms every fan should know 

Kit- The clothing worn by players so that they, and the fans, can identify who plays for which team immediately when looking to make a pass.

Knock it around- Describes when a team completely dominates possession and is passing the ball around.

Kop- Slang, British terminology used to describe the terraced stands behind goals in a stadium. Most famously used to describe the stand at Anfield, home to Liverpool FC.


La Liga- The name given to the highest division of competitive football in Spain.

Last-ditch defending- Describes desperate defending in which players will put their bodies on the line and essentially do anything to prevent a goal from being scored.

Last-gasp winner- When a winning goal is scored at a time where it leaves the opposition with very little time to respond, so the goal has essentially won the game.

Last man- Describes the situation where an attacker has only one defender, ‘the last man’, between him and the goal.

Lay down a marker- When a team can make clear their intentions or abilities through a single display.

Laws of the game- The rules that define Association Football, which are put forward by FIFA and verified by the IFAB.

Lay-off (pass)- A light pass across the pitch into the space in front of a player running from behind the individual who passes the ball.

League- A format of competition in which a group of teams compete against each other and are eventually ranked in order of the number of points they collected over the course of the matches played.

League Cup- A cup competition played in England, contested between the clubs in the nation’s top four leagues.

Libero- Another term for ‘Sweeper’ – a player who occupies the space between the goalkeeper and the defence.

Ligue 1- The name given to the highest division of competitive football in France.

Linesman- A match official who runs along one-half of the sideline to verify refereeing decisions and to award offsides.

Line-up- The eleven players selected for a match for a team.

Loan- When a player plays for a club other than the one they are contracted too, usually to gain experience because they cannot make the starting line-up at their existing club.

Long-ball- An elevated pass played over a large distance, which can also be in the form of a cross.

Lose the dressing room- When a manager no longer has the backing of their players.


Major League Soccer (MLS)- The name given to the highest division of competitive football in the USA.

Manager- In charge of running the team on a daily basis. They oversee transfers, training and choose the line-up and tactics of a team on match-day.

Manita- Spanish for ‘little hand’ and is used to describe one when team defeats another 5-0, with the idea that each goal represents a finger on the hand. 

Man in the middle- Term used to describe a midfielder.

Man of the Match- An award given to the best player in a game.

Man-to-man marking- When players are in charge of marking other individuals rather than marking in a specific area of the pitch – see zonal marking.

Marking- When a player occupies the space very close to an opposition player, with the aim of making it more difficult for them to receive a pass or find space. 

Masterclass- A performance by a team is so good, that this term is used to imply that they are teaching the other team how to play football.

Mazy run- When a player dribbles the ball a long distance without losing possession of the ball then they go on a ‘mazy run’.

Medical- A procedure that must be carried out when a team tries to sign a player, in which ‘medical’ tests are run to determine whether or not a player is physically fit enough to be bought by a club.

Men against boys- Describes a situation where one team dominates the other.

Mexican wave- A co-ordinated move by the crowd in which spectators stand up and wave their arms in the air and then sit down in a sequence to make them look like a rippling wave.

Midfielder- A player or players who play in the area between the attackers and defenders who are in charge of maintaining possession, breaking up opposition attacks before they reach the defence and creating chances for the forwards.


Near post- The vertical goal post closest to the ball.

Never say die- A belief or mantra that, whatever the circumstances in a game, a team can still pull it back and win.

Nutmeg/ Nuts- When a player intentionally passes the ball through an opponent’s legs.


Obstruction- A manoeuvre which infringes on the Laws of the Game. Involves a player positioning themselves between an opponent and the ball and potentially checking or making contact with the opponent but not the ball.

OFC- Oceania Football Confederation – the governing body for football across Oceania.

Off the ball incident- When a player receives a warning or booking for an offence that didn’t take place with the ball involved or when the referee didn’t see it.

Offside- Law 11 of the ‘Laws of the Game’. A player is said to be in an ‘offside’ position if any body part is in the opponent’s half of the pitch and any part of their body is closer to the opponent’s goal-line than both the ball and the second-last opponent. It is designed to prevent ‘goal-hanging’ so to speak and, although not an offence, will result in a free-kick being awarded to the other team.

Offside-Trap- When a team’s defence tries to get an opposition forward in an offside position by all simultaneously stepping forwards when the ball is played towards the forward.

On paper- When something is discussed with reference to a team’s raw ability at surface level.

One-apiece- When the scoreline reads 1-1, teams are described as being ‘one-apiece’.

One club man- A player who spends their entire playing / managing career with the same club.

One-on-one- Situation where an attacker has only the goalkeeper ahead of them.

One-two- See ‘give-and-go’.

Open goal- When there is no player, not even the goalkeeper, in front of the goal.

Outfield Player- A player on the pitch that isn’t the goalkeeper.

Out of their depth- Describes a team that is either losing heavily to an opponent or regularly playing against teams of a much higher quality than them.

Overhead kick- See bicycle kick.

Own-goal- When a player kicks the ball into their own net.


Panenka- When a player delicately chips a penalty kick down the middle of the goal, in an attempt to outwit the goalkeeper.

Parachute Payment- Payments made by the Premier League to football clubs when they are relegated.

Parking the bus- When the majority, if not all, of the players in a team will sit back and defend in an attempt to secure a win or draw in a game.

Pass- Made when a player kicks the ball to another teammate.

Penalty area- See box.

Penalty (kick)- Awarded to a team when one of their players’ is fouled inside the penalty area of the opposition. It is taken from twelve yards and only the goalkeeper can stop the shot.

Penalty shootout- A series of penalty kicks taken alternately by two teams to decide the outcome of a game where the score is level after normal and extra time.

Perfect hat-trick- When a player scores three goals in a game and one is scored as a header, one is scored with their left foot and one with their right foot.

Pick out a player- To pass the ball to a player who is not necessarily easy to find with a pass.

Pitch invasion- When spectators run onto the pitch, perhaps in protest, but more commonly to celebrate a promotion or league title win. 

Playmaker- A player who operates in an attacking midfield role and who ensures their team maintains possession and creates chances.

Playoff- Matches played at the end of the season contested by teams finishing in positions close to each other, which determines which teams get relegated and promoted. 

Ply their trade (for)- Essentially means ‘to play for’.

Poacher- See fox in the box.

Points deduction- When a team loses points from their league tally because of financial administration or because they have committed an offence against the ‘Laws of the Game’.

‘The Poznan’- A celebration from spectators involving them linking arms and jumping up and down in unison with their backs to the players on the pitch. It gets its name from the fact that Lech Poznan fans were the first to do it.

Pre-season- Set of games before the competitive, domestic fixtures begin and a time period in which players return to training before the new season starts to get their fitness back to the appropriate level.

Premier League- The top league in English domestic football, often described as the best or most exciting league in the world.

Pressing- A defensive strategy which involves jockeying or staying close to opposition players to force errors, put them under pressure and make it easier to win the ball. 

Primeira Liga- The name given to the highest division of competitive football in Portugal.

Professional Foul- When a foul is committed and the individual knows it will likely result in a yellow or even red card but when they recognise at the same time that it will benefit the team more to commit the foul and potentially lose a player than to allow the individual to continue without being stopped.

Pundit- An individual, usually a former player, who analyses matches and gives their opinion on player performances.


Quadruple- When a club wins both domestic cups available, the European cup (Champions League) and the league title.

Qualifiers- Sets of fixtures used to determine which teams will play in a tournament.

Quarter Final- The last eight of a knockout cup competition.


Rabona- Skill move in which the ball is kicked and the kicking leg is wrapped around the back of the standing leg.

Raiffeisen Football League- The name given to the highest division of competitive football in Switzerland.

Red Card- Issued to an individual following either one serious offence or two yellow cards. A player must leave the field of play immediately when they receive a red card.

Referee- Main match official in charge of the assistant referees and fourth official who oversees the game and is in charge of fouls, set-pieces etc.

Relegation- When a team accumulates a total number of points among the lowest in the league and is no longer eligible to play in that division.

Rival- An opposing team that is either challenging your team in the league or one which you do not like very much.

Romance of the Cup- A phrase given to explain the phenomenon of a big team losing to a small team in a cup competition.

Route One Football- See ‘long ball’


Save- The action of a goalkeeper using either their hands, arms, legs or any other body part to deny the ball crossing the line and therefore deny a goal. 

Scissor Kick- See bicycle kick.

Scorpion Kick- Acrobatic movement in which a player flicks both their legs up behind them and rotates forward at the same time, using their feet to make contact with the ball.

Scudetto- Name given to the Italian League title.

Season- The period of time over which all the main competitions in a nation’s football calendar take place.

Second-Season Syndrome- The concept that a team will underperform the season after a successful one.

Sending off- When a player must leave the field of play after receiving a red card.

Set-piece- A dead-ball situation which can be either a corner, throw-in, free-kick or penalty.

Shoot- The action of striking the ball towards goal in an attempt to score.

Side netting- The area of the net facing each corner flag, directly attached to the two vertical bars in a goal.

Signing- A new player bought by a club.

Simulation- See ‘diving’.

Six-pointer- Describes a game in which two title contenders or relegation candidates face each other and a victory would award the winning team three points but simultaneously prevent the opposition from gaining three points, so the win poses even more significance than usual.

Serie A- The name given to the highest division of competitive football in Italy.

Skipper- Colloquial term for ‘captain’.

Step-over- An attacking skill-move in which a player will lift their foot up and move it over the top of the ball without actually making contact with the ball to elude an opponent.

Stoppage time- See ‘extra time’.

Striker- See attacker.

Stunner- Describes an aesthetically wonderful goal, which is usually struck from distance. 

Sudden death- When each team has had the same outcome from their first five penalties in a penalty shootout and the shootout continues until one team misses and the other capitalises by scoring their equivalent penalty.

Super-sub- A substitute player who scores after coming on or a player who regularly makes substitute appearances and scores from them.

Surprise package- A team that impresses over the course of the season, exceeding their expectations. 

Suspension- The state of receiving a red card or accumulating a certain number of yellow cards over a period of games and not being allowed to play as a result.

Sweeper- See ‘Libero’.


Table- The organisation of teams into positions based on the number of points they’ve accumulated over a series of games.

Tackle- The action of dispossessing an opponent either standing and using a leg to kick the ball away or via a slide tackle – where the defender slides along the ground in an attempt to regain possession.

Talisman- A player who brings a team good fortune – the team will usually perform better if they are playing.

Target Man- A striker with a big, tall frame whose role is to hold up the ball and provide a target for other players to play the ball to.

Technical area- A zone in which managers must remain during the course of a game. 

Terrace- The standing area of a stadium.

Third-place playoff- A game contested by the two losers of semi-final matches.

Through ball- A pass played just in front of a player, with the aim of them running forwards to eventually collect the ball.

Throw in- A set piece in which a player restarts play by throwing the ball onto the pitch from behind the touchline.

Tiki-Taka- A style of football involving short passes and which places emphasis on retaining possession and regaining it quickly.

Toe punt- Using the end ‘toe’ part of the foot to kick the ball. 

Top of the table- When a team has accumulated more points than any other side in that league and occupies the number one spot in the league.

Top flight- The best division for professional football in a country.

Touchline- The markings along the side of the pitch.

Transfer window- The period of time in a season where teams are allowed to sign and sell players.

Treble- When a team wins any three major trophies in one season.

Trequartista- An old term originating from the Italian league describing a forward who is positioned almost as an attacking midfielder, who doesn’t push as far forwards as the team’s primary centre forward.

Two-footed tackle- A challenge considered dangerous in which a player uses two feet to regain possession of the ball and, as a result, dives into the tackle. Usually results in a red card.


UEFA- Union of European Football Associations- the governing body of football in Europe.

Underachievers- Term given to a team or country which has a history of having great teams but has won very little or even nothing.

Underdog- A team not expected to win or be successful in a tournament or game.

Under the cosh- When a team must place emphasis on defence because they are facing relentless attacks from the opposition.

Ultras- Passionate sets of supporters renowned for being aggressive and violent. 

Upset- When a big team with high expectations is eliminated from a competition earlier than expected, usually by a team of lesser quality.


Vanishing spray- Recently introduced, allowing referees to mark where a defensive wall is allowed to stand up to when the opposition has a free-kick.

Video technology- A recent development which enables us to analyse games in great detail, including goals and fouls.

Volley- When a player strikes the ball when it’s in the air.

Vote of confidence- Given to a manager under pressure from fans and the media, to supply reassurance that they have the board’s backing and support.

Vuvuzela-  A horn-shaped instrument infamous for its sound and role at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.


WAGs-  Colloquial term used to describe the wives or girlfriends of footballers.

Wall- A row of defensive players who position themselves side-by-side 10 yards from where a free-kick is taken with the aim of blocking the shot when jumping.

War chest- Used to describe the finances or budget a manager has available to them to spend on players.

Wembley- The ‘home of football’, a stadium in London where England play their international friendlies and qualifiers.

Winger- A player who plays on either the left or right of midfield and whose main role is playing crosses into the box to create chances for the strikers. 

Winter break- Period of time between December and January in which there is no domestic, competitive football in some countries because the climate makes it difficult to do so.

Woodwork- General term given to the posts or crossbar on a goal.

Worldie- See stunner.

Work rate- How hard a player works in a game, either defensively, offensively or both.

World Cup- The biggest tournament in football. An international competition which takes place every four years and which teams must qualify for, in which 32 sides compete to be crowned as the best country in world football.


X-rated challenge- A tackle where the offending player’s only aim is to injure the opposing player.


Yellow card- Awarded to a player that commits a cautionable offence. Two yellow cards result in a red card and an immediate dismissal from the field of play.

Youth academy- See academy.

Yo-yo club- See elevator team.


Zonal marking- A defensive strategy whereby players cover specific regions or ‘zones’ of the field rather than marking an individual player.

Liam Flin
Writer for the Racing Post
Fetching more content...