Can You Pass This Football Slang Term Quiz?


By: Zoe Samuel

7 Min Quiz

Image: Sally Anscombe / Moment / Getty Images

About This Quiz

Given time, every subculture develops its own shorthand. These lexicons vary in importance and strangeness; some specific terms are clearly derived and thus clearly understood, whilst other slang is so far removed from its origins that unless one is specifically told, one will not know what is meant by them. Every sport develops some shorthand, be it the use of acronyms or made-up slang, and football is no different.

Football has the advantage of being a very old game with centuries of play behind it. Football's style of play is active and against the clock, meaning that shorthand is valuable to players on the pitch, allowing quick and efficient communication. Being an international sport, football has benefited from the input of many cultures and languages, expanding the possibilities for slang through cultural exchange. Played by children and adults, football incorporates many points of view. Still, even the most ardent player can't know all of the shorthand used by footballers the world over. Knowing even an iota of the entire slang lexicon is enough to improve teamwork, so for the serious footie enthusiast, slang knowledge is a requirement.

Do you know the in-house language of the beautiful game, or are you merely a poseur with a limited vocabulary? It's time to test your footie-in-mouth skills!

If asked to make "a header," would you know what to do?

With most players unable to use their hands in play, feet, knees and heads are relied upon. A header is an action by which a player uses their head to deflect or impact the ball to a specific course, either scoring a goal or passing to another player.


Would you know what you saw if you spotted a "worm burner"?

Some kicks bend through the air. Some kicks soar and dive. A worm-burner is a kick that travels at high velocity without getting very high from the ground, usually only clearing the ground by a few centimeters. It is so named because the ball is hit hard and low enough to affect anything living in the ground, apparently including worms.


What do people mean when they say a "breakaway"?

A breakaway is the sort of thing that thrills some fans and causes others to despair. It is a moment when a player who has the ball has nothing but empty space separating him from the goalie and the goal, making it much easier to charge at the goal and attempt to score.


What is "marking"?

Marking a player means covering the player in a one on one fashion. Marking is usually done when the defender (the player doing the marking) believes that the player they mark is going to be passed the ball. Marking a player is intended as a prelude to intercepting a pass.


If you heard someone had made a "clearing kick," would you know what they did?

A clearing kick is a kick made defensively. Specifically, a clearing kick is a kick made by a defender in which the ball is transported from the defender's side of the pitch to the other side of the pitch, changing the dynamic of the game and perhaps passing the ball to a striker in on the defender's team.


"Centring kick" sounds very zen. What does it mean?

A centring kick is a kick from the sidelines, sometimes a corner kick or the like, allowing the kicking player to pass to another player in the centre of the pitch. The purpose of a centring kick is usually to set up a striker for a goal, either by kicking or heading the ball.


What is someone describing when they say something happened "off-the-ball"?

Any action off-the-ball is an action taken by players who do not have the ball at the time of the action. For example, a defender and a striker may try to shove past each other to intercept a ball, but until one of them has the ball, their actions are off-the-ball.


"Trapping" sounds scary! What is it really?

Trapping isn't just stopping the ball from moving using one's foot. Specifically, trapping involves stopping the ball from moving by stamping one's foot down onto the ball, thus "trapping" it between one's foot and the ground.


"Chip pass" sounds delicious. What's it really?

A chip pass is a kind of short pass where the player in possession of the ball hits the ball with a force similar to chipping away at a stone, sending the ball up and over a defender, to the receiver. A chip pass is a clever way of getting around a defence.


Who or what is a "linesman"?

Linesmen are a special kind of assistant referee whose job is to watch for when the ball crosses a line into an out-of-bounds area. When this happens, they signal the referee, who is responsible for taking action as a result of the call.


What is someone doing when they "whip it in"?

Whipping it in is kicking the ball into the box at speed for another player to attempt to score on the goalie. Pace is obviously an important part of this, as doing it slowly could hardly be called "whipping" it in.


Do you know what "advantage" is?

Advantage is a special situation when a player has been fouled, but the ref has not called the foul because it hasn't changed the dynamic of the play, meaning the attacker's team is still in a position to score. If the attackers fail, then the ref can call the foul, as it may be deemed to have contributed to the failure of the play.


Why should "upper v" strike fear into the hearts of defenders? What is it?

An upper V is indeed the top section of the goal where the bar describing the top meets the bar on the side of the goal, forming a sort of "V." When balls are hit to this part of the goal, they are notoriously difficult to reach and because they are so high, even harder to block.


What does "area chica" mean?

A bit of football slang originating in Spanish, "area chica" literally means "girl area," but it isn't clear why this term was chosen for the goalie's box. It is possible that reaching the area is deemed a prize, or that players who are tasked with defending are somehow more feminine. Whatever the origins, the meaning is clear.


Is "two-foot" a dance move?

A slide tackle is a vicious move in the beautiful game, and the most devious players execute it from behind other players. A two-foot is a slide tackle done with both feet, usually behind. It is dangerous and may injure the target of the attack.


What does it mean when someone is "booked"?

When referees card players for fouling other players, there are, of course, degrees of cards. When a player is carded, in order to keep track of the number of times they have been carded, and thus the degree of any further infraction, their names are written in the referee's book.


"Tuck-in" may sound like something players do when they eat. What is it really?

This term is usually used about defence. The meaning of "tuck-in" is for players to bunch together, creating a physical barrier. Such a barrier can either be used to stop players from passing the ball, or attacking the goal, or, indeed, intercepting a player who has the ball.


"Tiki-taka"? What's that?

Tiki-taka is the name given to a style of play popular in Barcelona and Spain. Specifically, tiki-taka involves retaining possession of the ball by frequent, quick passing of the ball from player to player.


What's a "sweeper"?

When most of defence is dedicated to marking players from the other side, one player must remain free to catch the mistakes that slip through. The player tasked with "sweeping up" after these failures is the "sweeper." The job of sweeper is perhaps one of the most important defensive jobs in the game.


A "Derby"? Is that even a football term?

A derby is a game in which the two teams playing come from the same place, but have very different fan bases, as they are rivals. Derbies are often heated affairs, even when little is at stake aside from bragging rights.


A "crack"? What's that?

Spain has produced some of the most peculiar slang in the beautiful game, some perhaps a result of Spanish players living in the UK. In describing a cracking player, Spanish players may refer to that player as a "crack." This is always meant in a nice way.


When is "squeaky bum time"?

"Squeaky bum time" is an expression having to do with the perspective of the fans. It means the time toward the end of the game when the game is almost over but not yet decided. Anything can happen at any time in football, and the tide may turn in even the final seconds of a game. Squeaky bum time.


"Square ball"? Is that even possible?

A square ball is not a kind of ball, but a kind of pass. There are times when players who have the ball may want to pass it to a teammate, but not want to move the ball forward or backward, for strategic reasons. At this time, a lateral pass (right angle, therefore square) is used.


Who or what is a "Capocannoniere"?

Few countries love football quite like Italy. Italy's Serie A football is especially loved, for it is where some of the best players test their skills against their rivals. When Italy's Serie A names its best player, that player is referred to by the nickname "Capocannoniere."


When someone is "shepherding," what are they doing?

As in all things, it is possible for a football player to influence the choices of other football players. Shepherding is a perfect example of this. Like a herding dog, the player guides the attacking player toward another defender, thus creating a more advantageous defensive scenario.


Who would make a "dummy run"?

A "dummy run" is a kind of play made to break a hole in a team's defence by means of deception. More specifically, a striker would suddenly move as though they have the ball, an act that in the chaos of the pitch, may draw the attention of a defender, even for a moment, creating an opening for whoever really has the ball.


What's a "rabona"?

A rabona is a kind of kick used by a player in possession of the ball. It is done to confuse the defenders and to show off just a bit. This type of kick is made by kicking the ball from behind the player's weight-bearing leg, meaning kicking the ball from behind the standing leg.


Do you know what a "free transfer" is?

When players transfer from team to team whilst under contract, the team they leave is usually compensated financially in the form of a transfer fee. If this move from team to team takes place after a player's contract ends, then there is no fee paid, and the transfer is deemed "free."


What does it take to achieve a "perfect hat-trick"?

A perfect hat-trick is a term for a special kind of achievement in football: a player must score three times in a game in three ways. In any particular order, the player must score a goal with a header, with a left kick, and with a right kick.


"Olympic kick"? What's that?

Akin to the Beckham special, an Olympic kick is a kind of bending kick that is extraordinarily difficult to do. An Olympic kick is a kick made from the corner that bends in the air and scores a goal. Doing this requires incredible control and tremendous spin.


Who is the man with the "golden goal"?

When games go into overtime, the stakes are raised. Players will become more worn out and prone to mistakes as the game drags on. A single goal could decide everything. A golden goal is such a goal: a goal made in overtime that decides the game.


Who or what is a "panenka"?

When players take penalty kicks, they are usually done with great force. A panenka is a penalty kick in which the kicker's body language signals a strong kick, but in the final moment before the kick, the energy goes down and the kicker softly kicks the ball, usually as part of a strategy to pass it to someone else.


Can you name a "hospital ball"?

Poor play on the pitch can lead to accidents, collisions and other dangerous circumstances. A hospital pass is a kind of badly executed pass that puts the receiver in position to be injured in the play resulting from the pass. Dangerous indeed.


When players are "handbagging," what are they doing?

Handbagging is one of the most delightful expressions in football. It is when players fight on the pitch, but the fight isn't a real fight, but more of a slap fight. This type of combat is called handbagging because it resembles elderly ladies fighting each other with their handbags as weapons.


Could you spot an "in-swinger"?

An "in-swinger" is a kicked ball that bends toward the goal instead of away from it. In-swingers, which would include the Beckham special, are difficult to execute, and players who are good at them tend to specialise in the play.


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