The Language of the Beautiful Game
For all you out there groping for the words or trying to understand some of them being spread about, with the World Cup in full swing and its language and the language of the world’s most popular sport in the air – for your reading pleasure – a primer on just some of the words that make up the game.
ACTIVE RESISTANCE: To use force in opposing another player.
ADVANTAGE RULE: A regulation that mandates that play is not stopped for a violation if the offending team has not gained an advantage or if stopping play would place the offended team at a disadvantage.
ANGLE OF POSSIBILITY: The angle created by imaginary lines drawn from the ball to each upright of the goal within which the ball must enter to score a goal.
ANTICIPATION: Judging an opponent’s action and moving into position to react accordingly and effectively.
BACK FOUR: In modern soccer, the four defenders.
BACK PASS: A pass by a player to a teammate behind him.
BACK UP: Playing behind a teammate to strengthen the defense or to receive a pass.
BANANA SHOT: A forceful shot at the goal: the ball is kicked off center and curves in flight.
BEAT: To reach a ball before an opponent does, or to outmaneuver an opponent through effective dribbling, or to get the ball.
BICYCLE KICK: An acrobatic technique in which the ball is kicked overhead as the kicker lands on his back.
BOOK: The recording in a book by the referee of the name or names of players guilty of unsportsmanlike behavior; this action is a warning to a player that he might be removed from the game if the unsportsmanlike behavior is repeated.
BOOT:To kick the ball.
BOUNDING BOARD: A goal-size structure used for kicking, passing, and ball-control drills (KICK BOARD).
BOX: The “18-yard box” penalty area.
BULLY: Frenzied and confused action with several players trying to gain control of the ball, generally in front of the goal mouth.
BUNCH: A situation where two or more players from the same team move into the same area of the field as another teammate.
BYE: A shot wide of the goal that crosses the goal line.
CAP: To choose a player to compete for a national team in international competition.
CARRY(ING) : A goalkeeper violation that involves his going beyond the four allowed steps without bouncing the ball.
CAUTION: A warning given by the referee to a player that involves the referee’s holding up a yellow card and writing the player’s name in a notebook.
CENTER: The act of passing the ball in the air from a side-line position back toward the center of the field and, if possible, in front of the goal of the opposition.
CENTER CIRCLE: A ten-yard-radius circle at the center of the field.
CENTER LINE: A straight line dividing the field of play in half that runs f~om side line to side line.
CHARGING: Intentionally pushing an opponent away from the ball or throwing him off balance.
CHEST TRAP: The act of trapping the ball with the chest in order to control the ball as it falls to the ground.
CHIPPING: A short, raised pass made with the instep or inside of the foot. Also, the act of lifting the ball over the head of an opponent.
CLEAR (CLEARANCE) : A throw or kick, usually by the goalkeeper, that sends the ball out of danger from his end of the field.
COMBINATION: A play that involves two or more members of the same team who work together to outsmart the opposition.
CONTAINMENT: The act of keeping the opposition restricted to a certain area of the playing field.
CONVERT: To successfully make a penalty kick.
CORNER: The small arc at each corner of the field from which corner kicks are executed.
CORNER FLAG: A flag positioned at each comer of the field.
CORNER KICK: A direct free-kick given the offensive team. The kick takes place from the corner of the field nearest the spot the ball went over the goal line after last being touched by the defending team.
COUNTERATTACK: To begin an attack immediately after gaining possession of the ball.
COVER: The act of staying very close to an opponent and hampering his ability to play the ball.
CROSS: The act of kicking the ball from one side of the field to the other.
DANGEROUS PLAY: A play that the referee judges capable of causing injury to a player.
DEAD BALL: A ball no longer in play because it has gone out of bounds or the referee has stopped play.
DECOY PLAY: A move designed to draw an opponent away from a certain area.
DEFENDER: A defensive player, who aids the goalkeeper in protecting the goal.
DEFENDING TEAM: The team that attempts to gain control of the ball while defending its own goal.
DEPTH: An extra-man advantage that gives a player in possession of the ball several passing chances and additional support.
DIRECT FREE KICK: A kick, awarded for major fouls, that is a free kick from which a goal can be scored directly by the kicker.
DISSENT: Arguing with a referee, which may result in a player being booked or sent off (ejected fiom the game).
DRAW: To cause an opponent to leave the player he is covering.
DRIBBLE: To advance the ball past defenders through a series of short taps with one or both feet while keeping the ball within one stride.
DRIVING THE BALL: A hard-hit shot at the goal or a long, well-hit pass.
DROP BALL: A method of restarting play after temporary suspension of action whereby the referee drops the ball between two players who will both try to kick or otherwise gain control of the ball.
DROP KICKING: The act of kicking the ball the instant it makes contact with the ground.
EJECTION: The banishing of a player from the game by the referee.
ELEVEN: A soccer team (XI).
END LINE: The boundary line that marks the end of the field.
EQUALIZER: A goal that ties the score.
EXTRA TIME: Additional playing time at the end of a game that is
caused by unusual delays during the game and for which there were no time outs permitted (STOPPAGE TIME).
FAR POST: The goal post farthest from the kicker.
FEED: Passing the ball to a teammate who can shoot for a goal.
FEINT: A deceptive move to mislead or confuse an opponent (FAKE).
FIFTY-FIFTY BALL: A loose ball that both teams have equal opportunity to bring under control.
FIRST-TIME KICK: Kicking a ball without trapping or controlling it.
FISTING: Punching at the ball with the fist(s).
FLICK: Passing the ball with a strong, outside-of-the-foot movement (JAB KICK).
FORMATIONS: Line-ups on the soccer field. Players today are broken down into three groups: defenders, midfielders, and forwards. The goalkeeper is omitted, for no matter what the formation, his position is always the same.
FORWARD: Mainly an attacking player whose job is to create and score goals.
FOULING: Illegally using the hands or body against an opponent, which can lead to a direct free kick for the opposition.
FOUL THROW: An illegally executed throw-in.
FREEBACK: A player not specifically designated to mark or guard an opponent (SWEEPER; LIBERO).
FREE KICK: A unhampered kick of a stationary ball awarded a team when an opponent commits a foul.
FRIENDLY: A game between two international teams before the beginning of regular international competition (British term).
FULL TIME: The close of the game.
GARRISON FINISH: A last-minute, surprising victory.
GIVE AND GO: Passing the ball to a teammate and running to a position to receive the return (WALL PASS).
GOAL: The target area, 24 feet wide by eight feet high. Also, the score made when the ball passes between the goal posts beneath the crossbar.
GOALKEEPER: The final line of defense and the only player permitted to use his hands within the field of play, with the restriction that this is done within the penalty area.
GOAL KICK: A type of kick performed by a defender when the ball last touched by an attacking player passes over the goal line without going into the goal; the ball must be kicked from inside the team’s goal area and must go beyond the penalty area of the team.
GOAL LINE: The boundary line at the ends of the field.
GOAL MOUTH: The area immediately in front of the goal, between the goal posts and the crossbar.
GOAL POSTS: Usually wooden posts between four and five inches in width and depth.
HALF TIME: The end of the first 45-minute period of play.
HALF VOLLEY: Kicking the ball just as it rebounds off the ground.
HANDLING: Intentionally playing the ball with the hands, arms, or shoulders.
HANDS: Illegal act of intentionally touching the ball with any part of the hands or arms.
HAT TRICK: Scoring of three goals in one game by the same player.
HEADER: A shot or pass made by hitting the ball with the head.
HEADING: Hitting the ball with the front part of the forehead to pass, score, or control the ball.
HEDGING: A stalling action where the player backs up while containing an opponent with the ball so that his defense can recover their position.
HOLDING: Obstructing a player’s movement with hand or arm.
HOOK TACKLE: A tackle made by dropping down to one knee and at the same time extending the other leg to hook the ball away from the opposing player (SLIDING TACKLE).
INDIRECT FREE KICK: A kick from which a goal cannot be scored directly unless touched by another player.
INJURY TIME: Time added on to the end of a game to make up for time lost in the treatment and removal of a playe who has been injured.
INSIDE-OF-THE-FOOT KICK: A kick made with the inside edge of the foot, driving the ball to the side or diagonally forward.
INSTEP: The part of the foot covered by the laces of the shoe, most often used for kicking.
INSVVINGER: A corner kick or cross that swings the ball in the air toward the goal mouth.
INTERCEPTION: Gaining possession of the ball before it reaches the intended receiver of the other team.
JOCKEY: The giving of ground by a defender in order to gain time.
JUMP KICK: A kick made by jumping into the air and kicking the ball while it is two or three feet off the ground.
KICK IN: Putting the ball in play when it goes out of play over the side line. In women’s soccer, a free kick at a stationary ball on the touch line after the opposing team has driven the ball into touch.
KICKOFF: A place kick executed from the center of the field at the start of the game, at the start of each period, and after each score.
KICK TO A STOP: Kicking the ball to an open area where a teammate can reach it before an opponent.
LATERAL MOVEMENT: Side line-to-side line movement.
LEAD PASS: A pass aimed ahead of the intended receiver so that he can pick it up and drive on without breaking stride.
LINEMAN: A forward.
LINESMEN: Two off~cials who are assistants to the referee and who primarily aid in indicating when the ball has gone over the side lines.
LIQUID CATCH:Catching the ball with relaxed fingers and hands and arms drawn to the body.
LOFT (LOB) : A high, soft kick taken on the volley; usually a kick over the heads of the defense.
LONG BALL: A long pass.
LUNGE: To execute a long stride, putting weight on the foot that is moved.
MARK(ING): CoveRING and guarding an opponent so closely that it becomes very difficult for him to receive a pass.
MARKER: A score.
MIDFIELDER: A player with both offensive and defensive responsibilities whose main job is to link up forwards and defenders (LINKMAN).
MISKICK: A poor kick.
MOBILITY: Constant movement by players to create and use space.
MULTIPLE OFFENSE: The movement of players allowing the creation of several offensive patterns.
NEAR POST :The post closest to the kicker.
NET: Mesh fabric attached to and behind the goal, helpful in judging whether a goal has been scored.
OBSTRUCTING: Intentionally blocking an opponent by standing in his path.
OFFSIDE: A player out of position. In women’s soccer, a player is offside when she is in the attacking half of the field and there are less than three defenders between her and the goal.
OFFSIDE LINE: Either of two lines marked across the playing field parallel to and 35 yards from each goal line. These lines are used in American professional soccer in place of the halfway line to determine offsides, and are analogous to the blue lines in ice hockey.
ONE BOUNCE: A delayed game (for example, stadium lights go out) is resumed by the referee dropping the ball at midfield between two opposing players, where it is played after bouncing once.
ONSIDE: In a legal position with respect to the ball: being behind the ball when it is driven into the attacking part of the field, or having at least two defenders nearer the goal when the ball is being played by a teammate.
OUT OF BOUNDS: A situation that takes place when a ball is completely over the end line or touch line.
OUT OF PLAY: A situation that takes place when a ball goes off the field, the goal line, or the side line.
OUTSIDE FORWARDS: The two forwards in a five-man forward line who usually play along the sides of the field.
OUTSIDE HALVES: The two halfbacks who usually play near the sides of the field.
OUTSIDE LEFT: The left wing forward.
OUTSIDE RIGHT: The right wing forward.
OUTSTEP: The outer surface of the instep.
OUTSWINGER: A corner kick or cross that swings the ball in the air away from the goal mouth.
OVERLAP: The attacking play of a defender moving down the touch line past his own winger.
OWN GOAL: A goal that a defensive player accidentally knocks into his own goal.
PASS: To kick or head the ball to a teammate.
PASS-BACK: A pass made back to one’s goalkeeper, usually in a pressure situation.
PASSIVE RESISTANCE: Opposing with little effort.
PENALTY AREA: A portion of the playing field in front of each goal; a foul by a defending player within this area results in a penalty kick for the opposing player. In men’s soccer, the penalty area is 44 yards wide by 18 yards deep and centered on the goal. A ten-yard arc extending from the penalty kick mark beyond the far end of the area serves to extend the penalty area during a penalty kick, since no player except for the kicker is permitted to stay within ten yards of the ball. In women’s soccer, the penalty area is a semicircle with a 15-yard radius centered on the goal.
PENALTY GOAL: A goal scored on a penalty kick.
PENALTY KICK: A direct free kick, taken from the 12-yard spot in front of the goal, that is awarded for fouls committed by the defending team within their own penalty area.
PENALTY MARK: The spot l2 yards directly in front of each goal, usually indicated by a short line. It is from this mark that the penalty kick is taken.
PENALTY SPOT:A spot 12 yards from goal from which penalty kicks are taken.
PENETRATION: Accurate and quick advancing of the ball in a scoring attempt.
PITCH: A British name for the playing field.
PIVOT INSTEP KICK: A kick made by swinging the leg around in front of the body, hitting the ball with the instep, and driving it to the side rather than straight ahead.
PLACE KICK: A kick at a stationary ball placed on the ground.
PLAY THEM OFFSIDE: A method of making offensive players move away from the goal.
POSITION: The area of the field occupied by a player.
PULL: To remove a goalkeeper when trailing late in a game and replace him with an additional offensive player to increase the chances of scoring.
PUNT: To kick a ball as it is dropped from the hands.
PUSH PASS: A pass made by shoving the ball with the foot instead of kicking it.
READ: Anticipating and getting set for action that may take place; understanding and reacting to the strategy of the opposition (READING THE GAME).
RED CARD: A card used by the referee in international soccer to indicate that a player is being ejected from the game.
REFEREE: The official responsible for the timing and control of the game.
RIDING A BALL: A means of cushioning the impact of a ball, reducing its speed, and bringing it under control that is executed by a player giving at (or relaxing) the part of the body where the ball hits.
RUNNING OFF THE BALL: Player movements into pass-receiving positions.
SAG OFF: To move away from an opponent being marked.
SAVE: The goalkeeper stopping an attempted goal by catching ordeflecting the ball; any prevention of the ball from entering the goal.
SCISSORS KICK: A kick made by jumping up and kicking first one leg into the air and the other, which sends the ball above the head, usually to the rear of the player.
SCORE: To get the ball to pass over the goal line between the uprights and under the crossbar, without it being interfered with by the goalkeeper or another defensive player.
SCORING CHANCE: An opportunity to take a shot at goal.
SCREEN: Keeping possession of and protecting the ball by placing one’s body between the ball and the opponent.
SENDING OFF: The dismissal of a player from the game by the referee.
SET UP: To kick the ball aloft and get it to land near the goal.
SHEPHERD: To maneuver opponents into less dangerous positions while retreating.
SHOOTOUT: North American Soccer League procedure used when teams are tied after playing two sudden death overtime periods: the teams take five alternating shootout attempts at opposing goalkeepers in one-on-one situations.
SHOT: An attempt to score by kicking or heading the ball toward the goal line.
SIDE FOOT: A shot or pass made by kicking the ball with the side of the foot.
SIDE LINE: The long side of the field-boundary line.
SKIED: A ball kicked needlessly high into the air.
SLIDING TACKLE: An attempt to take the ball away from the opponent by sliding on the ground, extending the leg, and hooking the ball.
SOLE KICK: A kick in which the sole of the shoe is put on top of the ball and the ball is pushed forcefully to the rear (SOLE-OF-THE-FOOT KICK; SOLE TRAP).
SPACE: Open areas on the playing field that can be used by the offense.
SPLIT TACKLE: A tackle in which one foot is stationary and the other is aimed at the ball, as the tackler ends up on the field in a position resembling a split.
SPOT KICK: A stationary-ball kick; another terrn for the penalty kick.
SQUARE BALL: Passing across the field approximately parallel to the goal line.
SQUARE PASS: A pass pushed laterally across the field to a player moving forward.
STALEMATE: Two players facing each other, each waiting for the other to make a move (STAND-OFF).
STANCE: The position of a player’s feet.
STOP: A catch or deflection of a shot by a goalkeeper.
STOPPER BACK: The back who plays near the center of the field, usually the center halfback.
STRIKER: A central forward position whose major responsibility is scoring goals.
STRONG FOOT: The foot a player is more skilled in using.
SWERVE KICK: A kick with the outside of the foot that makes the ball swerve in flight.
SWITCH: The act of one player exchanging places (position) with a teammate, and vice-versa.
TACKLE (TACKLING): Attempting to kick the ball away from an opponent, to make him lose control of it, to cause him to hurry his pass. Tackling takes place when both players are playing the ball with their feet.
THROUGH PASS: A pass that goes through two opposition players to a teammate.
THROW IN: The means of resuming play after the ball has gone out of bounds at the sidelines: an opponent of the team that sent it out is given the ball to throw back in.
TOUCH: Out-of-bounds area, outside of the touch lines.
TOUCH LINE: Boundary lines on the side of the field; the side lines.
TOUCH-LINE KICK: A free kick from the touch line performed from the spot where the ball left the playing field.
TRAP(PING) : A method of controlling the ball by stopping it with the feet, chest, thighs, or head.
UNGENTLEMANLY CONDUCT: Striking an opponent, etc., which can result in a player being dismissed from the game.
VOLLEY(ING) : Kicking a ball while it is in the air.
WALL: A lined-up barrier of 3-7 defenders positioned near the goal to help the goalkeeper in his defense against a free kick and to block as much of the kicker’s view of the goal as possible.
WEAK FOOT: The foot a player is less skilled with.
WIDTH: The holding of wide positions on the field by players to facilitate passing over the entire width of the field.
WING: The area of the field near the touch line.
WORLD CUP: A world championship competition held every four years. Each nation, generally represented by its best players, engages in regional competition until there is a final elimination competition of 16 teams. The World Cup trophy is won permanently by any national team that wins the World Cup three times.
YELLOW CARD: A warning card held up by the referee to indicate that a player has committed a serious foul and is thereby being cautioned.
Harvey Frommer is in his 39th year of writing books. A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 42 sports books including the classics: best-selling “New York City Baseball, 1947-1957″ and best-selling “Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball,” his acclaimed Remembering Yankee Stadium was published in 2008 and best-selling Remembering Fenway Park was published to acclaim in 2011. The prolific Frommer is at work on WHEN IT WAS JUST A GAME, AN ORAL HISTORY OF SUPER BOWL ONE (2015)