Football Glossary

Understand the most common used terms in football
Understand the most common used terms in football

The most common terminologies used in football

Advantage: When the referee decides to let play continue after a foul has been committed, as stopping play would benefit the team which has commit- ted the foul.

Amateur: A player who plays without being paid.

Assistant coach: The second-in-command of a soccer team, after the head coach (or manager). Does not pick the team, but assists the team boss in whatever way is seen fit. Often a friend to the players, bridging the gap between the head coach and the team.

Assistant referee: Formerly known as linesmen or lineswomen, the assistant referees run along the sideline, helping the referee officiate the game. Their main responsibilities are determining if a ball has gone out of play, who touched the ball last, and whether a player is offside, though they also act as a second pair of eyes to any incident on the field, and advise the referee wherever necessary.

Back heel: Playing the ball with the heel, usually sending it in a backwards direction. The move can be utilized as either a pass or a shot.

Bench: Substitutes, coaches, physio, and whoever else is associated with the team but not currently playing. So called because they are usually sitting on a bench on the sidelines.

Bicycle kick: A difficult maneuver where the player jumps, leans backwards, and moves his legs as though pedaling a bicycle to kick the ball. The ball is sent over the head of the kicker, in a backwards direction.

Booking: A caution for foul play. The player is shown a yellow card. Two yellow cards result in a sending off.

Box: The penalty area, or penalty box.

Captain: The on-field leader of the team, as designated by the team coach. They are responsible for keeping up morale, communicating with the referee, and making minor tactical changes as the game progresses. (Captains are only permitted to make on-the-spot tactical changes if the coach has given them the authority.)

Caution: Punishment for foul play. The player is shown a yellow card. Two yellow cards will result in a sending off.

Center spot: The mark directly in the center of the pitch, used to position the ball for kickoffs.

Chip: A delicate pass, clipped up into the air and dropped towards a precise spot.

Clean sheet: A final score of no goals conceded. If a team lets in no goals during a match, the goalkeeper is said to have “kept a clean sheet.”

Clearance: A ball being kicked or headed away from any particular danger zone. A clearance can be made to avert an immediate goal threat — a ball hoofed off the goal line by a defender is a goal line clearance.

Club: An organization that exists to put out soccer teams for the purposes of competition. Many clubs will have at least a basic setup of a first team, reserve team, and youth teams.

Corner: A kick taken by the attacking side, after the ball has been put out behind the goal line by the defending side. It’s taken from the left or right corner of the pitch, on the side of the field the ball went out of play. It’s usu- ally sent straight into the penalty area, in the hope that an attacking player can get a shot or header on target.

Cross: A ball sent into the penalty area by an attacking player, from either the left or right side of the field.

Dead ball: The ball is considered dead when it’s not in play, but still on the field. This means it has been positioned for a free kick, a corner, or a penalty.

Defender: One of the players whose first responsibility to his team is to ensure goals are not scored against them. They play in a formation at the back of the team, hoping to nullify the threat of the opposition attackers. They may be asked to follow a particular opponent around — man-to-man marking — or take care of a certain area of the field — zonal defending.

Direct free kick: A free kick from which a player can take a direct shot at goal.

Dissent: The act of arguing with the referee or the referee’s assistants. Dissent is often punished with a yellow card. Extreme cases of dissent can see a player sent off, usually for swearing or aggressive behavior.

Dribble: Keeping control of the ball with the feet, and retaining possession, while running.

Drop ball: A method of restarting a game if the referee has had to stop it without the ball having gone out of play. This is usually for an injury. The ball is dropped to the ground by the referee, at which point players on both sides can touch the ball and get on with the game.

Dummy: Faking to kick the ball, or move in a particular direction, but not doing so, confusing the opposition in the process.

Equalizer: A goal that levels the score of a game. If a team was losing 1-0, and scores to make it 1-1, they have scored an equalizer.

Extra time: Two 15-minute periods of play contested when teams finish the 90 minutes drawn, but a winner on the day is required. (This usually occurs in cup competitions, where a replay would be impossible — or unfair — to stage.)

Fair play: Sportsmanship. Both teams and players can win “fair play” awards for good behavior.

Far post: The goalpost farthest from the ball.

Field: The playing area; sometimes referred to as the pitch.

Final whistle: The referee’s blast on the whistle that signals the end of the game.

Final: The last tie in a knockout tournament between the two teams yet to be knocked out. The decisive game.

Formation: The tactical arrangement a manager or coach sets his team in.
A formation is a numbered combination of the ten outfield players, reading from the back to the front of the pitch. So the classic 4-4-2 formation has four players at the back, four in midfield, and two up front.

Forward: A primarily attacking player. A forward’s job is to score goals, or create them by combining with another forward player. They are also known as goalscorers, or strikers. Forwards can also play on the wings, or as attack- ing midfielders, but this is a much looser definition of the term.

Foul: An infringement of the Laws of the Game.

Fourth official: An official whose task is to help the referee and his two assis- tants, usually from the stand or the technical area. They oversee substitutions, keep the two benches in line, and announce the amount of stoppage time at the end of a match.

Free kick: A dead-ball kick taken by an attacking team, after a player has been fouled.

Friendly: A match which is not part of an official competition, counting for nothing in particular. Usually an exhibition game, either between clubs which rarely play each other, or two countries.

Fullback: Either a left back or right back; that is, a defender who plays on either the left or right wing of the pitch.

General manager: An administrator who assists the coach in transfers and other club-related business. Often a former professional player or coach.

Goal: 1. The ultimate aim of soccer. A goal is scored when the entire ball crosses the entire goal line, under the crossbar and between the goalposts. 2. The area where the goal is scored.

Goal kick: Method of restarting the game when the attacking team put the ball out of play over the goal line (but not in the goal). Usually taken by the goalkeepers, but occasionally by one of their team mates.

Goal line: The lines that run between each touchline at either end of the field. The goal is situated in the middle of the goal line.

Goal mouth: The area directly in front of the goal.

Goalkeeper: The only players on the pitch allowed to use their hands — but only in the penalty area — the goalkeeper’s job is to ensure the opposing team does not score.

Golden goal: A sudden-death goal, scored in extra time, which wins the match immediately.

Ground: 1. The surface of the field. 2. In England, a stadium.

Half volley: A kick or shot made immediately after a dropping ball hits the ground.

Halftime: The period between the first and second halves, lasting 15 minutes.

Hand ball: A foul by a player who handles the ball with his arm or hand on purpose. Goalkeepers can only be called for this foul outside the penalty box.

Hat trick: Three goals in a game by the same player. A perfect hat trick is a trio of goals, one scored by a left-footed shot, another by a right-footed shot, and a third with a header.

Head coach: The person who runs the team, picks the players, chooses the tactical approach, and makes in-game decisions such as tactical rethinks and substitutions. They also determine which players to buy and sell. Known in England as the manager.

Header: Propelling the ball using one’s head.

Indirect free kick: A free kick from which a player cannot take a direct shot (it must touch another player) at goal.

Injury time: Time added on by the referee at the end of each half, to account for any stoppages in play. Also known as stoppage time.

Inswinger: A shot, pass, or usually a cross that curves in towards the goal from wherever it has been hit.

Interval: Another word for halftime.

Keeper: A colloquialism for goalkeeper.

Kickoff: A kick from the center spot, which starts the game or the half or restarts the game after a goal.

Linesman: The old-school term for assistant referee. It was changed to become gender neutral in the early 2000s.

Manager: The head coach.

Man-to-man marking: A system where each defender tracks a specific opponent and stays with them all game, usually following their every move around the field.

Match: A game.

Midfielder: A player who spends most of their time in the center of the field. They are usually the most influential players in the side, contributing to both attack and defense, and dictating the speed and direction of play.

Near post: The goalpost nearest to the ball.

Nutmeg: A move in which a player kicks the ball between the legs of an opponent. The kick can be a pass to another team mate, or a “pass” to themselves.

Obstruction: Deliberately getting in the way of another player with no intention of playing the ball. Should result in an indirect free kick.

Officials: 1. The referee, the referee’s assistant, and the fourth official. 2. Representatives of a club.

Offside: Players are offside when they are nearer to their opponents’ goal than the second-to-last opponent — at the time the ball is played forward by a team mate.

Offside trap: A defensive tactic used to lure opponents into being caught offside. All defenders move up the field at the same time, leaving opponents stranded.

One touch: A kick or pass made using the player’s first touch upon receiving the ball.

Outswinger: A shot, pass, or usually a cross which curves away from the goal from wherever it has been hit.

Overlap: When a defender runs down either wing, past their midfield, or attacking players, to become part of the attack.

Own goal: A goal accidentally scored by a player into his own net. The own goal counts as a goal for the opposition.

Pass: How a player moves the ball to another, using either his feet or head.

Penalty: A free shot from 12 yards in the penalty area, upon the award of a direct free kick in the box. Also known as a penalty kick.

Penalty area: The 18-x-44 yard area around each goal, in which the goal- keeper is allowed to handle the ball, and fouls by the defending team are punished with a penalty kick.

Physio: The physiotherapist, team doctor, or man carrying a bucket of water and sponge.

Playmaker: A player — usually a midfielder — whose job it is to dictate the way the entire team plays, and at what tempo. This is usually meant in a creative sense, with the player influencing the game through clever passing.

Professional: A player who is paid and earns his living from playing soccer.

Red card: A card shown by a referee to a player who has committed a serious offense, usually violent or cynical. The player is sent off and no longer able to take part in the game. The player cannot be replaced. He is also banned from a following game (or more games).

Referee: The official who is in charge of the game and makes decisions according to the Laws of the Game.

Restart: Another word for kickoff. A restart happens after any dead ball situation.

Save: A shot or header blocked, caught, or parried by the goalkeeper, which otherwise would have been a goal.

Semiprofessional: A player who is employed by a club on a part-time basis, but must also hold down a day job to make ends meet. Semipros are usually found in the lower leagues at small clubs which can’t afford full-time salaries.

Set piece: A free kick, corner, throw-in, or goal kick pre-organized and practiced by a team.

Shot: A kick towards the goal. A shot at goal is off target; a shot on goal is on target.

Side: A team.

Sidelines: The lines running down both sides of the field, from each goal line. Also called the touchlines.

Soccer: Shorthand for Association Football. Often erroneously claimed to be an Americanism, when in fact the word was coined by British university students in the late 1800s.

Square pass: A pass played to a team mate standing alongside — rather than ahead, or behind — that player. Often used pejoratively, to suggest a lack of creativity or attacking gung-ho on the part of the passer.

Stoppage time: Time added on at the end of the game for injuries, arguments, substitutions, and so on.

Striker: Another word for forward. Often used for a player whose sole purpose is to score goals.

Substitute: A replacement player who can be swapped for a player on the field.

Tackle: A defensive motion in which a player uses his foot to take the ball off an opposing player, or block their progress.

Target player: A forward, usually a tall or bulky one, who is the target of passes and crosses — usually of the long variety. The target player is usually an adept header of the ball, and very strong.

Through pass: A pass that goes between and past the last line of defense, allowing an attacker to run into space and receive the ball.

Throw-in: The method by which a ball that has gone out of play over the touchline is deposited back into play, a player throwing it in over his head using both hands.

Tie: 1. If two teams end the game with the same amount of goals, the result is a tie, sometimes called a draw. 2. The name given to two teams in a competition who play each other in a specified round of a tournament.

Time wasting: Deliberately taking unnecessary amounts of time to restart the game from dead-ball situations in order to run down the clock.

Trainer: 1. A team’s medical expert. 2. A manager or coach, usually specializing in tactics or fitness.

Transfer: The method by which players change the teams and clubs they play for.

Unsportsmanlike behavior: Conduct that brings disgrace to the game.

Volley: Kicking the ball when it has been sent flying through the air, before it has hit the ground again.

Wing: Either side, or flank, of the field. Wingers are the attacking players who are positioned on either side of the field.

Yellow card: A card shown by a referee to a player who has committed an offence that requires them to be put on a warning. A second yellow card results in the player being sent off.

Zonal defense: A tactic where defenders look after a designated section of the field, or penalty area, rather than concentrating on a particular opponent.