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The Language of Soccer (Football) Part I

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 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.

#   #   #

You can reach Harvey Frommer at:   

Email:  harvey.frommer@Dartmouth.EDU 

About the Author:

Harvey Frommer is in his  38th year of writing books. A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 42 sports books including the classics: "New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and "Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," his acclaimed REMEMBERING YANKEE STADIUM was published in 2008 and his REMEMBERING FENWAY PARK: AN ORAL AND NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THE HOME OF RED SOX NATION was published to acclaim in 2011.  The prolific Frommer is at work on When It Was Just a Game, An Oral History on Super Bowel One. 

His work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, New York Daily News, Newsday, USA Today, Men's Heath, The Sporting News, among other publications.

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Harvey Frommer along with his wife, Myrna Katz  Frommer are the authors of five critically acclaimed oral/cultural histories, professors at Dartmouth  College, and travel writers who specialize in cultural history, food, wine, and Jewish history and heritage in the United States, Europe, and the Caribbean. 

This Article is Copyright 1995 - 2014 by Harvey Frommer.  All rights reserved worldwide.

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