Welcome to the everyday language podcast episode 19, this one is about football clichés and phrases. It’s another snowy day in Akita, so while I might not be able to get outside to kick a ball about, this episode is going to help me do the next best thing which is to talk about football.
As you may or may not know, in football there is a lot of unique jargon used by football commentators and writers.
So in this episode, my friend Richie and I try to explain some of these phrases which you will hear if you watch football matches in English or read if you read the football reports in the newspapers or elsewhere.
Vocabulary, clichés and phrases
top, top player – excellent player. (better than a top player – )
to bode – a verb that suggests forecasting.
To bode well – to predict a favourable outcome.
To bode ill – to predict a poor outcome.
he’s almost hit that too good – when a player takes a shot that misses because they have tried too hard.
like a rabbit in the headlights – a phrase that means: to panic and to freeze.
there’s a certain spark – there’s a certain special quality
to snatch at it – to panic while kicking the ball resulting in a poor kick.
part and parcel – idiom meaning: what should be expected.from doing a certain activity.
he looks like a player – cliché that expresses admiration for a football player’s excellence.
Player X was electric – Player X was amazing.
Neymar was electric.
look like schoolboys – an idiom used in football when a great player makes he is playing against look unskilled.
Messi made the Bayern defence look like schoolboys/ unskilled.
to park the bus – to have a very defensive strategy with most of your players in your own half defending for most of the match. The image of parking a bus in front of the goal was made by. This phrase was said to be first said by Jose Mourinho when he was the manager of Chelsea.
Ok so let’s get into this now.
Mark: So kicking it off excuse the pun first one is top, top player, like, er, “he’s a top, top player”?
Because they say it in the media, like the commentators.
Richie: Yeah, I mean well nowadays there’s always this discussion going on around, er, he’s a top player, he’s a world-class player, oh he’s good but not world class, you know there’s only so many, you know, there’s only two world-class players then some people will say “Oh, no, that’s not true, there’s, you know, Ronaldo and Messi on a different level, but then you’ve got world-class players that are below them” or, you know, “the best two strikers in the league are considered world-class at any one time” yeah that’s kind of,
Richie: So people do talk about that, yeah.
Mark: Yes, so that’s the meaning of top, top player.
Richie: Is that the same as world-class though?
Mark: It’s better than world-class isn’t it? Or isn’t it, like the same? It’s the same as world class?
Richie: I would say top, top there is like he’s a really good player, but he’s not, he’s not world-class, you know?
Mark: Really? Well, you’re saying that someone like Gerrard is a top, top player, and Lampard is a top, top player, but Messi is [a] different level?
Richie: Yeah, I would do normally, I would, well it’s just kind of, yeah people trying to raise those two, I think Cristiano Ronaldo, Messi to a different, on a different level, to everybody else, and then you’ve got people that are world-class, maybe, you look at people like Luis Suarez, I would say, you know Iniesta, yeah maybe, Neymar nowadays,
I mean he’s got, he’s still young, so I say he’s, he’s got the potential to be a world-class player, and he probably is already, but he needs to demonstrate it more consistently,
I think, yeah that’s partly it, that people need to demonstrate it [their talent] consistently across different levels, and so obviously they need to win titles and win league titles in their domestic leagues, but then also demonstrate that on the, on the world stage, as well, so if you win a World Cup, you know that’s really [going to] help you,
Richie: …get that world-class type status, I suppose, which then again I suppose doesn’t bode well for Messi or Christian Ronaldo,
Mark: I mean undoubtedly, isn’t it? Like Messi’s definitely the best player that’s ever played, or well, he’s at least as good as Maradona, or Pele, surely?
Richie: I would even, yeah, I think those guys, would find the level of players different nowadays, so they probably wouldn’t shine quite as much, obviously they would still, you know, would have developed as players as well but I think the general standard of players nowadays is higher than it was back then, you know, there’s great professionalism, you know.
Richie: So yeah, that just makes Messi and Ronaldo, or Messi stand out, even more, I suppose because they can, you know, be a notch above.
Mark: You know, there’s another phrase I quite like, it’s, er, “he’s almost hit that too good”
So that’s when someone’s taking a shot at goal, and the commentator says “he’s almost hit that too good”, so how can you hit something too good?
Richie: I mean what context is that? Does it mean if he’s, he’s scored? Or?
Mark: No, no he’s missed, it’s when someone’s missed, he’s saying “he’s almost hit it too good” like it’s, he’s missed but not, not by much, you know. He’s probably doing the right thing.
Richie: Yeah, so you kind of over, he’s almost tried too hard, you know, you almost like that natural instinct of it, is taking out of it, I suppose, he’s just it’s almost like a rabbit in the headlights.
He over tried and then therefore failed.
Mark: That’s quite a good simplification, yeah so thinking for people, English learners football language is hard, I mean what is? What does all this stuff mean? Do you know what I mean?
Richie: Yeah, you take it for granted, don’t you? When you hear it? Funny thing is, I always find myself saying these things, myself and then the commentator will say it straight afterwards, and then you just think, “oh it’s just ingrained into [me]”, I’ve obviously watched too much football, over the years.
Mark: Mmm, yeah, it’s in the [news]papers when you read it, when you read about football, like another, another description of a footballer I like, “that player, he looks like a player”, “he looks like a football player, that guy,”
Mark: Well what does that mean? Like, surely [it’s obvious]? he’s dressed in the football kit, he’s at the football, he’s at the training centre, he’s at the club, he’s going, walking out onto the field, he looks like a footballer?!
Richie: You would think that, but yeah from a footballing point of view certain players just have that [look]… it’s probably like a dynamic look about them, that makes them look like a professional football player, as opposed to, you know, if you go down the leagues, you know, championship, first division, second division, you know, those players are pretty good, and…
Richie: Maybe, even, you know, the professional football player if you took them and put them into those [lower] leagues they would even struggle because it’s almost like a different style, and I think, they’re slightly less athletic, and then, you know, [to] say that they look like a football player they’ve really got that, that professional look that, erm, you know, Premier League players have, so yeah there’s a certain spark there.
Mark: Cos like, I read about that in Messi’s autobi—ography, it was written by someone else, and they said there’s this guy, er, like a Barcelona player, a professional and when Messi was still in the youth teams, they said, yeah, one of the coaches says, “look at this guy [referring to Messi]” , he [the player] goes “I don’t even need to”, “I don’t even need to see him play, he looks like a player”.
Mark: And everyone would go “yeah, of course, it’s Messi” like this is how he stands, you can tell he’s like [a great player],
Richie: You know, I mean, I’ve got a few players that I’ve seen in my time and I think you kind of get that aura when you see these players live, playing that you don’t even pick up on the, the, just through the TV but, players like Dimitar Berbatov he kind of,
Richie: He had this air of arrogance about him, and you know, you just think he had something, just a spark, now he’s always fame-, he was always famed for his skill, he was a bit lazy, wasn’t he? But you could just tell that it was just something there, you know, he just terrified defenders basically, who were other players I’ve seen?
Neymar he stood out as being unplayable, he was just incredible,
Mark: Have you actually seen him?
Richie: Yeah, so I’ve been to see Barcelona a couple of times, so I must have seen Neymar the second time, and he was, just stand out, he just made these professional players, that he was playing against, look like schoolboys basically, he was just, you know, he scored a hat-trick that game and even players like, Messi was on the pitch, and he had quite a quiet game, but Neymar was just electric. He was just…
Richie: Yeah, he’s just, you just couldn’t get a ball off him really, so he’ll stand away from you, and make you step-in towards him, but as soon as you move that’s it you’ve had it, he’s committed you, and you will just take that… he’ll be able to react to you instantly, so it’s just kind of,
Richie: Exceptional yeah, he was good.
Mark: Er, I’ve got a bit of Brazilian football, I don’t know, trivia?
Mark: I heard that’s there’s this one theory why Brazilian footballers are so good was because they’re playing on sand, you know, a lot of the time, and because they’re playing on sand it means their core muscles have to be very, they’re very tough, basically, even though, though like Neymar they’re really like really wiry,
or they don’t look like, you know, they don’t look like, I don’t know, don’t look like Premiership footballers, I don’t know, they don’t look really big and stuff, but they’re still really incredibly strong, so like Neymar and Coutinho all those people who look tiny and stuff.
Richie: Santi Corzola and people like that that are just, kind of like, yeah and Alexis Sanchez maybe, they’ve just got that core strength, haven’t they? Just kind of…
Mark: I mean Sanchez he does look like, he could be like a middleweight, like his neck is like that (makes wide sign with hands)
Richie: Yeah, yeah well they’ve just got this kind of… centre of gravity, their muscles are like united around their centre of gravity so they’re very difficult to [get the ball off],
Richie: I think Messi’s got that as well, that’s one of what kind of sets him above, that he’s just so perfectly balanced, you know, he can go left, he can go left, and he’s just kind of so quick to, change that, and that’s why you can’t really [get the ball off him], if you, if you pushed him, you just push his centre of gravity, and the ball just sticks to his feet so he can just kind of go anywhere, you just can’t get [close] to him.
Mark: Mmmhmm, so that was that one looks like a player, so if you did a blind…, not a blind to test because you need to see them, if you did a test where you had ten people, and you could tell which one was the real footballer without, without them playing football, could you do that?
Richie: What, what do they do just stand there? Or hehehe, run?
Mark: Yeah, like in a football pitch in kit? Haha
Richie: I don’t know if it’s really… you’ve got to see them move I think,
Richie: I think certain players have, the good players, you could you could just see a silhouette of them, on the pitch moving, and they kind of, they’ve got something unique about them, each one of them,
Richie: Do you not think? There’s kind of erm,
Mark: I don’t know mate, like I’ve watched the, I’ve watched the Zidane film in the cinema, do you know that? Like, the whole 90 minutes of him playing a match, like, the camera just follows him for [90 minutes], he only like touched the ball like 3 times
Mark: Yeah, he does seem like a very, like he’s working in a machine, like, they all really know what they’re doing, there wasn’t even much communication, haha.
Richie: Yeah they kind of…yeah exactly.
Mark: Like go here, go there,
Richie: You know, at that level you’ve gotta have a very high-level awareness of your, your other players on your team, so you don’t really need to communicate.
Mark: Mmm and they’ve been playing for years, haven’t they? And it’s just, the same football game, I guess, all right let’s try to find another one.
Richie: Not long now is it? Six months till the World Cup again?
Mark: Er, Russia, yeah
Richie: Italy got knocked out.
Mark: Yeah that was a shock.
Richie: I can’t believe Sweden got away with it, they just literally sat back, Italy were just attacking, attacking, attacking they just couldn’t score.
Richie: It was just horrendous.
Mark: They parked the bus.
Richie: Yeah they literally did, exactly that was a classic case of parking the bus, it was quite, um, yeah I don’t know, they could at least, they could afford to concede a goal, so it wouldn’t really matter, even if Italy had scored they would still be in the game, so they literally were just, I don’t think they even went into Italy’s half at all.
They just kicked the ball back to Italy, straight back to Italy every single time and then [Italy] just kept attacking, attacking.
Mark: Oh right, they camped in their own half,
That’s it, the end.
***I had a cold when making the intro and outro for this episode a cold, so that’s why I sound croaky.
Intro Music: Funky Element by Bennsound no copyright sourced from YouTube
Outro Music: Flying Down the Freeway by Genx Beats（ゲンクスビーツ） (Creative Commons)
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