20 Great Spanish Soccer Terms and What They Mean

Karla Villegas Gama@karlitsvFeatured ColumnistDecember 22, 2011

20 Great Spanish Soccer Terms and What They Mean

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    One of the most popular sports nowadays is soccer. It has gained lots of fans all around the world. 

    The FIFA World Cup is one of the most successful sporting events on the planet. For instance, the match between the US and Ghana was the most-watched soccer game in US TV history according to Nielsen.

    Spanish speakers can be very passionate when it comes to soccer and it was precisely at the time of the 2010 World Cup when the ratings went sky-high.

    Univision drew 9.36 million viewers, an all-time record for any genre of Spanish-language TV in the States.

    If by any chance you've watched a soccer match narrated by Spanish-speaking commentators or you play with people who speak Spanish, you need to know both key and colloquial terms.


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    Originally written "panbol," it was a pejorative term used by English miners who played soccer in Hidalgo, located in Eastern Mexico.

    When the miners realized that local bakers (panaderos) were playing it too, they called the sport panbol.

    As time went by, pambol became a popular synonym for soccer. A pambolero is an avid fan.

Píntalo De Amarillo

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    It literally means, "paint him yellow" and, as you can imagine, refers to the yellow card (tarjeta amarilla).

Echar La Cáscara

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    It literally means, "to throw the shell/skin" and has several connotations:

    1. When you go out and play on the street with friends.

    2. When you play during training.

    3. When a team controls the game in such way that it seems they are training.

Pase a La Red

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    It literally means, "pass to the net," which, as you may have already inferred, refers to a goal.


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    If you hear someone say, "le dio una leña," (he give him a wood) or, "sacó la leña," (he showed the wood) that means that the player fouled his opponent in a nasty way.

De Sexto De Primaria

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    It means, "from sixth grade." It's used when someone accomplishes an unbelievable play.

De 3 Dedos

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    The literal meaning is, "three-toed." People say that someone kicked the ball three-toed when the player accomplishes an amazing goal.

Jugaron Como Nunca, Perdieron Como Siempre

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    "They played like never before, they lost as usual," is the literal meaning to this phrase. It has become very common in Latin America, especially in Mexico after El Tri is defeated in a major competition.

Les Dieron Un Baile

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    It means, "they gave them a dance." It's used when a team was so good with the ball that they didn't let the opponent excel or show its own game.

Ponerse El Overol

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    This phrase literally means, "to wear the dungarees." This connotes that a player is not only battling to help his team, he's also serving in a position other than his own.


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    When someone says a given player is a "cazagoles" what he means is the footballer is a goal poacher.

Cerrar La Pinza

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    This means, "to close the clamp." It refers to the goal that defines the match.

Jugada De Pared

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    Known in English as a give-and-go or wall pass. The literal meaning is, "wall play."

Diagnonal Matona

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    "Bully diagonal" is the literal meaning of this play. It means that when you make a diagonal pass, usually to a player that's behind or at the back, the ball will end in the net.


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    Known in English as a bicycle kick.


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    The meaning is, "to dribble." He who makes a lot of dribbles is known as gambetero.

Centro Al Área

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    The literal meaning is, "center to the goal." It refers to a cross pass.


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    When the player makes a nutmeg, the Spanish speakers call it, "a túnel" (tunnel). 


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    It refers to a step over. The literal meaning is, "bicycle."


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    This is one of the few words where the meaning in Spanish is the same as in English: "dive."


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