By Andrew Martin. Illustrations By Millie Chesters.
Learning a new language can be tough and intimidating. Grassroots football has its own glorious language which, if you’re new to the game, can be confusing. We’ve put together this handy phrasebook to help get you through any situation the beautiful game might throw at you.
All day, mate
You’ve kept the opposition out of your penalty area, and they’ve resorted to a shot from long range which goes sailing over the bar. “Alllllll day, mate,” says the gobbiest player on your team, semi-mockingly, “all day, from there,” ensuring that the next time a long-range shot comes in, it will curl perfectly into the very topmost bins. That is how football works. That is how the world works.
This lot don’t wanna know
Interchangeable with “this lot aren’t interested.” A weakness in the opposition has been sensed. A tackle has been missed or a cheap throw-in conceded. Their hearts aren’t in it, they’d rather be on the beach, they don’t wanna know.
Screamed, often exasperatedly, at a teammate who has a tendency to panic, to let them know that they have time and space in which to play. This often causes said teammate to panic and give up possession faster than they otherwise would have. One of football’s great ironies.
The opposite of “TIME!”. Used to tell a teammate that they are being closed down by an opponent they may not have seen coming. In English-speaking countries, “Man on!” is used in both men’s and women’s football, probably because it’s faster than saying “woman on” or “player on”.
They don’t like it up ‘em
Often used to intimidate an opponent of smaller physical stature, and to encourage one’s teammates to use hard tackling and physicality to rush the opponent into a mistake.
Get rid! / Away!
“For god’s sake, kick the ball as far away from our goal as you can, immediately.”
Mispronunciation of the Spanish phrase tiki-taka, wrongfully used by British managers over the age of forty to refer to any team that can string two or more consecutive passes together. “Bloody continentals… coming over here, passing our footballs.”
If a team has tippy-tappied more than two passes together and hasn’t yet scored a goal, one of the players will inevitably say, “start again,” the ball will be passed back to the goalkeeper, and the goalkeeper will launch the ball out of play. God save the queen.
It was there to be won!
Often heard in conjunction with “it was 50/50, ref!”. The ball was not there to be won, it was not a 50/50, and somebody has almost certainly just been hospitalised.
Used by goalkeepers, at defenders, to let them know that they simply cannot be bothered saving any incoming shot, essentially preemptively passing blame for any potential goal conceded.
A shot that has gone over the crossbar, and toward the sky.
Common nickname given to any player who has ever attempted a stepover.
Often used by older fans who paid £40 for outright ownership of a house in the 1970s, using money from their paper round, and misremembers pre-Premier League football as a popular form of bare-knuckle boxing.
We’ve gone quiet! Talk! Let’s get some chat going!
“Alright, mate? See Love Island the other night? Nah, me neither.”
Mind the short one
Confusingly, nothing to do with player height, this phrase actually means ‘mark the player closest to the ball’ at a free-kick or corner.
How long, ref?
Often asked by the winning team from the 70th minute onward. Always followed by “[insert number of minutes]?! Where’s that come from?!”
Don’t dive in!
A phrase traditionally said to a defender immediately before they dive into a tackle they don’t win.
One of you!
Used when two teammates are running toward the ball at the same time, often followed by a comedy head clash, cartoon stars and canaries circling around the players’ respective heads, and the opposition bearing down on goal.
Meaningless phrase shouted by the gobbiest player on the team when they can’t be bothered to run.
Win your battles
This one refers to any sort of physical confrontation or one-on-one situation in football. If you’re a right-back playing directly against a left-winger, for example, your coach might tell you to ‘win your battles’ against that winger. It’s a real staple of the coaches’ phrasebook, as it’s essentially meaningless, but then if their player does win a battle, the coach can claim responsibility for that victory. It’s a bit like telling a fish to swim, and then becoming convinced that you’re God when it starts wiggling its tail and flapping its fins.
Nothing to do with food. “Seconds” actually refers to a loose ball immediately following an aerial challenge between two opposing players, or the second ball. Shouting “seconds!” is a way of encouraging your teammate to win the second ball.