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Word Cup Words

Giugno 2010
Goal, corner, penalty... ormai tanti termini calcistici vengono usati in inglese anche da noi. Ma non sempre a proposito: uno fra tutti, ‘mister’. Occhio: l’allenatore si chiama coach!

di Mark Worden

File audio:

Speaker: Mark Worden (Standard British accent)

This month everyone will watch the World Cup in South Africa. If you have Sky, you can watch the matches with the English commentary. This will be excellent for your English! Films in a foreign language can be difficult, but sports events and news programmes are easier. This is because the commentators describe what you see. If you do watch the World Cup in English, here are some useful words:


The word football is confusing. For most of the world, football is the game with the round ball. In the United States football is the other game, the one the rest of the world calls “American football.” Americans call the “European” type of football “soccer.” This is an abbreviation of “Association Football,” which is the game’s correct name. In reality there are many types of football: American Football, Association Football and Rugby Football. You also have the Irish game, Gaelic Football, and its Australian cousin, Australian Rules Football.


We don’t need to explain words like goal and penalty because they are international. The word “fan” is also international: it is an abbreviation of “fanatic.” In the team you always have one goalkeeper. You probably have four defenders, sometimes three, sometimes five. Usually there is a right back, a left back and two central defenders. One of these is the centre-half. The defenders play in defence and they defend their goal. Then there is the midfield: usually there are four midfielders, but sometimes there are three or five. Then in attack you have the attackers, who are either strikers or wingers. It all depends on the trainer or coach. The English also call him the boss, the manager or “the gaffer.” The Italians call him “Mister,” but the English never do! The coach or trainer decides the tactics and the formation: 4-4-2, 4-3-3, or even 3-5-2. He also decides when to substitute players. He does this when a player is playing badly, or when an opponent fouls and injures him. For some fouls, the referee will show a player a “yellow card” and book him. For bad fouls, he will show him a red card and send him off.


The coach is important, but the most important people are the referee – or “ref” – and the two linesmen. They have an impossible job: they must decide about goals, fouls, penalties and offside. The referee and linesmen are in the area of play. The English usually call this “the pitch,” but sometimes they call it “the field of play.” They never call it “the field,” although they do use the expression “midfield.” Football, like English, can be strange!

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goal - significa ‘gol’, ma anche la porta.

penalty - calcio di rigore.

goalkeeper - portiere.

right back - terzino destro.

left back - terzino sinistro.

centre-half - mediano.

midfield - centrocampo.

strikers or wingers - centravanti o ali.

trainer or coach - allenatore.

fouls and injures him - commette fallo e gli fa del male.

referee - arbitro.

book him - lo amminisce.

send him off - lo espelle.

linesmen - guardalinee.

offside - fuorigioco.

the pitch - il campo.