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Quirkiest football phrases from around the world

June 16, 2018 Apps No Comments Email Email

It’s that time again: Thousands of football fans are gearing up for one of the world’s largest sporting events. Football is the most talked about sport in Australia – it makes fans cheer (and complain). Everyone has an opinion, and football fans around the world have come up with a dazzling array of colourful, funny expressions – from having a bad day at the office because you hit the woodwork, to making it through squeaky-bum time to break a hoodoo. The language learning experts at Babbel have gathered together the funniest and strangest international football phrases to get you prepped with lingo for every game.

Situation: The referee throws the game!

When it’s not going to plan, it’s often the referee’s fault. Is he blind or something?

  • The French probably wonder the same thing when they ask if the referee swallowed his whistle (“avaler son sifflet”).
  • In Poland, a referee is called a rubber boot when he makes a bad call (“sędzia kalosz”).
  • In Brazil, they shout “juiz ladrão!”, which literally means thief-football referee.

Situation: The goalkeeper can’t seem to make a save.

Goalkeepers have a hard job. Mistakes can mean the difference between winning and losing. There are a few metaphors around the world for when a goalkeeper makes an obvious mistake.

  • In Brazil, they say “levar um frango”, which literally means to get a chicken.
  • Russians call a really bad goalkeeper a “мышелов” (myshelov) or mouse hunter.
  • In Spain, they talk about the goalkeeper going out to catch butterflies (“salir a cazar mariposas”) or get grapes (“salir a por uvas”).
  • The French call a bad goalkeeper “une passoire”, or a sieve.

Situation: A player falls to the ground pretending to be fouled.

We’re all thinking “But you were hardly touched!” Some players have a reputation for their habit of diving.

  • In Denmark, these players die the swan’s death (“svanens død”).
  • In Sweden, they don’t mince words and say he’s acting (“han filmar ju” – literally he’s filming).
  • The Germans have named the habit after a bird – a swallow (“eine Schwalbe”), and a player who does it often is a king of swallows (“ein Schwalbenkönig”).
  • In Spanish, the players don’t just dive, they throw themselves into the swimming pool (“tirarse a la piscina”).

Situation: A team sticks to defending and doesn’t go on the offensive.

It makes for a boring match to watch, but it’s a commonly used tactic to keep the other team from scoring. There are times when you’re left wondering whether any players will even try to move towards the other goal.

  • In Germany, the common expression is that the team bus is parked in the penalty box (“Der Mannschaftsbus wird im Sechzehnmeterraum geparkt”).
  • There are similar expressions about parking the bus in France and Denmark. In Denmark, it’s “at parkere bussen”, and in France it’s “garer le bus”.

Situation: The offense doesn’t manage to score a goal.

It’s as though the goal is nailed shut and nothing can get in.

  • In Spain, they doubt it’s possible to score a goal even into the rainbow (“no meter un gol ni al arcoíris”).
  • In Italy, they call a shot telephoned (“tiro telefonata”) when it’s so bad and predictable that you might as well have called the goalkeeper ahead of time to tell him about it.
  • It can be a big problem when you don’t move quickly enough as a forward. For a player who stays in an offside position, the French say he’s put up his tent(“planter sa tente”).

The language of football isn’t always negative.

Let’s look on the bright side. There are also a few nice metaphors for successful moves.

  • The French expression “nettoyer les toiles d’araignées” means to clean the spider’s webs and is used for a ball that’s fired straight into the back of the net.
  • In Russian, a match where the goalkeeper doesn’t let in a single shot is called rusk with raisin (“сухарь с изюмом” – sukhar’ s izyumom).
  • And in England, the fox in the box is the player who scores the most goals from the penalty area.

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