Italian football, English football terms

Italy, Italians, the World Cup, and football terms

Dear Italian football fan,

I’m writing to you as an English football fan, so one football fan to another. This summer, you will no doubt sit on your sofa, lean back and allow your hand to hover over the remote control. It will be a hesitation of no more than a few seconds but it will be notable in its unique relevance. For the first time in decades a World Cup will be taking place without your beloved Italy kicking a ball in anger.

You will no doubt dispassionately flick on the TV and zap this way and that. Perhaps your curiosity will guide your finger towards MTV, a shopping channel or the news. A moment spent on each channel. You will no doubt fidget a while as you contemplate giving in to your desires, the desires of a natural football supporter. You will question your loyalty to your suffering nation and you will decide that the pain you are going through is somewhat unjustified, unfair and far removed from every footballing sensation you have ever experienced. You will remember your anger at the expert football journalists who surmised, mistakenly, that drawing Sweden in the play offs was tantamount to qualification. You will remember their arrogance and recall also that you wanted to believe they were right even though your natural reaction was to tend somewhat towards caution. Sweden is not after all such a bad team. They may lack that stardust that Ibra once distributed generously around the pitch but they are still a well-drilled and disciplined team. You knew deep down that it was not as easy as those experts wanted you to believe.

The beautiful game

Eventually your anger makes the decision for you. Not only is Italy absent from this international celebration of the beautiful game but so are your Dutch cousins, another European behemoth in footballing terms. You take the only decision that feels right, as a true fan of the beautiful game. You turn to your station of choice. The teams walk out onto that glorified field of green, the crowd roars as the people jump to their feet to celebrate their heroes, your mind flashes back to the Colosseo, the gladiatorial battles, the people of ancient Rome greeting their own heroes and your pride begins its slow but steady journey back to its rightful place.

The World Cup will miss Italy and their designer kits

Then you remember, Italy is not there, not taking part, not representing the people of your beautiful country who have, throughout history, done so much to advance the ideas and principles of beauty, knowledge, philosophy, style, literature and sport. For a moment you consider turning the TV off and going to join your friends for an aperitif. It’s a tempting thought. Then you consider something else. It is true that Italy is not taking part in the tournament and you miss watching the Azzurri strut about the pitch in their designer kits and delicate tactical style, yet the world cup is missing Italy too. By not qualifying for the tournament, the tournament is all the poorer. The charisma, the charm, the colour and the passion of Italy and its supporters will be sorely missed. Your team is irreplaceable in so many ways that no true football fan can ever truly enjoy a world cup without you there.

So lean back my friend, enjoy the spectacle before you without the sense of anxiety you would normally feel going into a tournament of this kind and remember, it’s not only you who is missing out, it’s the whole world!

“Do not be afraid; our fate cannot be taken from us; it is a gift.” Dante, Inferno


Football terms and cliches:

It’s a game of two halves

This suggests that the game can change completely in terms of final result from how it seemed at the start. One team can play amazingly well in the first half, but in the second half is completely outplayed by the other team.

Football, it’s a funny ol’ game

A quotation attributed to Jimmy Greaves who wanted to point out that football can be strange and surprising is not always predictable.

We’re only concentrating on the next game.
When a team has the potential to win something big, they try not to think about the end prize but to take each little step as it comes. By simplifying the process it becomes easier for players to maintain their focus.


This is a term from the old days when two teams could play each other in quick succession, sometimes on the same day. Nowadays it can be used to refer to two similar games, one after the other. For example, “a championship double-header” refers to two big games involving teams challenging for the title.

It’s a 6-pointer

This is as mathematical as football gets. Depending on how the result of a game between two teams closely positioned in the league table goes could amount to no change between the teams or a potential six-point differential.

From now until the end of the season every game is a cup final

This means that every game remaining in a season is important.

He plays with his heart on his sleeve

This refers to a player who is completely dedicated to the team and may be emotionally invested in the club too.

He is the team’s engine room

This suggests that a player is so active and influential in a team that he/she is considered to be what makes the team tick.

The 12th man

This is a reference to the influence of the crowd. When the crowd is fully supportive of their team it can be intimidating for visiting teams.

You only sing when you’re winning!

This is a popular chant in the stands to laugh at opposition supporters. Most supporters would probably argue that they would support their team whether winning or losing.


Idioms/phrasal verbs

Kick off

The official start to the game begins with the first kick. In business terms it is used to refer to a meeting or workshop which introduces a new product or financial year.

Park the bus

Suggestive of defensive tactics normally when playing against tactically superior players. In business it could be applied to scenarios where management choose not to take risks.

Straight off the training ground

When a pre-arranged move comes to fruition. In business this might refer to putting into practice those things learned in training sessions such as processes and protocols.


MAKA; for all your sporting language needs









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