Introduction:

One of the few things in life that most people share a common interest in, is football (called 'soccer' in North America and Australia). Whether you're waiting for a meeting to start, in a taxi or in the pub, it is very normal to have a conversation about football. So, it is very useful to know how to talk about football in English.

There is a lot of vocabulary to learn for football, so to make it easier for you to learn and remember it, I have created two exercises for you to learn it. In this first of two online exercises on the topic, you'll learn the English names for the different types of players and officials, some things that happen during a game and some of the basic rules.

When you have done this exercise, you should do the second part of the exercise. In the second part, you'll learn the English names for the different things that players do when playing a game/match.

To learn the English vocabulary for talking about football competitions (like the World Cup, the European Cup etc...), do our online exercise on 'World Cup English football vocabulary'.


Exercise: What is football?

Read the following conversation between Buck and Juan, two work colleagues, about the rules of football.

From the context, try to guess what the meaning of the words/phrases in bold are. Then do the quiz at the end to check if you are right.

Juan:'Hi Buck, how are you enjoying your time in Spain? A bit different to the States, isn't it?'

Buck:'It's good. You're right, it is different to the US. Actually, last night I saw a soccer match on the TV. Don't you call it football here? To be honest, I didn't really understand what was happening.'

Juan:'Yes, it's called football. It's really a very simple sport. The team that scores more goals wins. I'll explain some of the rules to you. There are 11 players on each team. The first player is the goalkeeper, he has to stop the other team from scoring a goal, he's the only player who can touch the ball with his hands. Then in front of him, there are 4 defenders, they have to prevent the other team from scoring but can't use their hands. In front of them are the 4 midfielders, their role is to both try to score and prevent the other team from scoring. Then in front of them, you have two players whose main purpose is to score, they're called strikers. Then lastly you have the coach, he's not actually a player, he's the person who trains and instructs how the players should play.'

Buck:'I also saw three other people on the grass pitch. They were wearing black. Who are they?'

Juan:'Well, the one on the pitch running with the players is the referee. And the other two running along the sides of the pitch are called linesmen. All three are there to make sure that the match is played correctly. If they see for example, a player trying to hurt or injure another player, or somebody touching the ball with their hand illegally, they stop the game and give a foul, to punish the player that did it. That means that the other team are rewarded with a free kick. If it's a serious foul, the referee will give the player who did it a yellow or a red card. If it's a red card then the player is sent off, that means he can't play any more in that match.'

Buck: 'You said that the only player who can touch the ball with their hands is the goalkeeper. But I saw other players throw the ball with their hands last night, and the referee didn't give a foul. Why?'

Juan:'If the ball goes over the lines at the sides of the pitch, then the match stops. To start it again, a player has to do a throw-in, he throws the ball over his head. Any player on the pitch can do a throw-in. But if the ball goes off the pitch at the ends, where the two goals are, the referee doesn't give a throw-in. He'll give either a corner or if the attacking team were last to touch the ball before it went off, he'll give a goal kick. Where the goalkeeper restarts the match by kicking the ball from their area. Does that make sense?'

Buck:'It kind of makes sense. Another thing I saw last night, the referee gave a free kick to the defending team when a striker from the other team was very close to shooting at their goal. I didn't see a foul.'

Juan:'The referee could have made a mistake. But it's possible that the striker was offside. In football, you can't pass a ball to a player on your team if there is no opposition player between him and the opposition goalkeeper. The off-side rule is a little confusing.'

Buck:'I thought you said that football was simple!'



Quiz: English vocabulary for football part 1

Below is a definition/description of each of the words/phrases in bold from the above text. Now fill in the blanks with one of these words/phrases in bold. Only use one word/phrase once and write it as it is in the text. Click on the "Check Answers" button at the bottom of the quiz to check your answers.

When the answer is correct, two icons will appear next to the question. The first is an Additional Information Icon "". Click on this for extra information on the word/phrase and for a translation. The second is a Pronunciation Icon "". Click on this to listen to the pronunciation of the word/phrase and to do a pronunciation speaking test.

1. The two assistants of the referee, are called    

         

Linesmen:
(noun) The role of a 'linesman' is to help the referee with decisions. In Spanish: "juez de linea.

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Linesmen:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
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2. When you do something against the rules, it is called a    

         

Foul:
(noun) When the referee sees something illegal he 'gives a foul' to the other team. When talking about about the referee we always use the verb 'to give' in front of 'foul'. It is also a verb, 'to foul'. We use this when a player does something illegal to another player, e.g. 'The defender fouled the goalkeeper' In Spanish: "falta".

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Foul:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
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3. The name of the players that are between the midfielders and goalkeeper, is    

         

Defenders:
(noun) We call the area where they place 'defence', e.g. 'I play in defence'. In Spanish: "defensas".

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Defenders:

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4. The name of the place where you play football, is called a    

         

Pitch:
(noun) 'Pitch' is also used for Rugby, Cricket, Hockey etc... But not for Tennis, Basketball where it is called a 'court'. In Spanish: "campo".

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Pitch:

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5. The name of a foul that begins with 'O', is    

         

Offside:
(noun) A confusing rule in football, that means you can't kick/pass the ball to a player on your team, if on the moment of kicking it, one of the players on your team is in front of the last defender on the other team. In Spanish: "fuera de juego".

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Offside:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
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6. The name of the players that play in front of the midfielders, is    

         

Strikers:
(noun) The players are also called 'forwards' and 'attackers'. Their purpose is to score goals. In Spanish: "delanteros".

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Strikers:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
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7. When a player uses his hands to restart a match from the side of the pitch, it is a    

         

Throw-in:
(noun) It is generally used as a noun. The referee decides whose throw-in it is, depending on who last touched the ball before it went off the pitch. In Spanish: "saque de banda".

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Throw-in:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
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8. When a goalkeeper restarts a match after the ball went off the pitch at the ends, it is a    

         

Goal kick:
(noun) A goal kick is given/awarded by the referee if the last player who touched the ball before it went off the pitch was from the other team. If the last player who touched the ball before it went off the pitch was from the goalkeeper's team, then a 'corner' is given/awarded. In Spanish: "saque de puerta".

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Goal kick:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
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9. The name of the person who organises and trains a football team, is a    

         

Coach:
(noun) A 'coach' is also called a 'manager' in Britain and Ireland. In Spanish: "entrenador".

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Coach:

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10. The player who is behind the defenders, is the    

         

Goalkeeper:
(noun) The area where a goalkeeper plays is called the 'goal'. But also, if someone scores, it is called a 'goal'. A little confusing. In Spanish: "portero".

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Goalkeeper:

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11. When somebody does a foul, the referee gives a    

         

Free kick:
(noun) A 'free-kick' can be given by a referee everywhere on the pitch. But if a player is fouled in the other team's area (the box in front of the goalkeeper), then it is a 'penalty'. In Spanish: "tiro libre".

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Free kick:

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12. The players who are between the defenders and strikers, are called    

         

Midfielders:
(noun) We call the area where they place 'midfield', e.g. 'I play in midfield'. In Spanish: "centrocampistas".

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Midfielders:

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13. The person who can give yellow and reds cards to players, is the    

         

Referee:
(noun) It can also be used as a verb 'to referee'. In Spanish: "árbitro".

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Referee:

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14. When a player is given a red card, he is automatically    

         

Sent off:
(verb) The infinitive of the verb is 'to send off'. A referee 'sends a player off', a player 'is sent off'. It can also be used as a noun 'sending off', but is not common. In Spanish: "expulsar".

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Sent off:

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Practice

Now that you understand the football essentials vocabulary, practise it by creating your own sentences in English with the new words/phrases.