Top 10 Football Idioms Used In English

Soccer Or Football?

Football or soccer? Soccer or football? Before we start with our list of football idioms, let’s throw some light on this. The quick answer is, if you are in North America, South Africa or Australia, then it’s soccer. Otherwise, it’s football. But why is it that they keep calling it “soccer”? According to a paper by University of Michigan professor Stefan Szymanski, surprisingly enough, the Brits might be the ones to blame.

Around 200 years ago, two styles of football were emerging in England. One, based on passing the ball with their hands (you guessed, rugby!), and the other, based on dribbling the ball with their feet. The latter was called “association” football. Rugby was shortened to ‘rugger’, and the association football was shortened to ‘soccer’. Apparently, they liked to end words in -er back then.

The reason why “soccer” is used in these countries results from the need to avoid confusion between that type of football and the other forms that are more popular over there. That said, when we say that we have a list of awesome football idioms, we mean we have a list of awesome soccer idioms.

Our Top Ten Football Idioms

Whether you say “football” or “soccer”, and whether you are sporty or not, these idioms might come in handy when speaking English. They originated from sports, but now we often use them at work, at home or with friends. As a little tribute to the 2018 World Cup that has just started, here is our Top 10 compilation of football idioms:

#1 To get the ball rolling



To make something begin.


  • Let’s get the ball rolling and start with the list!
  • Who would like to get the ball rolling? (=Who would like to have the first word?)

#2 To get a kick out of something



To get a feeling of enjoyment, amusement or excitement from something.


  • I always get a kick out of watching stand-up comedy.
  • She got a kick out of seeing her book published.

#3 To know the score



Understand and accept the reality of the situation, or to know the facts.


  • I know the score -my job could be easily replaced in the future by Artificial Intelligence.
  • You know the score, we can’t afford a big house right now.

#4 To be a game changer



A new idea or event that makes a significant change in the way things are done.


  • The new parking system is a game changer.
  • When it comes to transport, the invention of the wheel was a real game changer.

#5 To take sides



To choose one person or party whom you support, defend or agree with in an argument.


  • The argument has nothing to do with me, so I refuse to take sides.
  • When they passed the new law, the citizens were quick to takes sides.

#6 To be on the ball


To be aware and quick to take action.


  • I didn’t sleep well last night, and I’m not really on the ball today.
  • The new candidate has to be someone who is really on the ball.

#7 To watch from the sidelines



To be in a position where you are not directly involved


  • Every time I am in trouble, you never support me. You just watch from the sidelines!
  • The Government should start doing something, they can’t continue to watch from the sidelines.

#8 To score an own goal


Something that you do that gives you disadvantage and helps someone else.


  • Their speech was supposed to get them more supporters, but they actually scored an own goal once they started ranting off-topic.
  • The president thought the new law would be beneficial for his party, but it has generated such strong opposition, that it has become an own goal.

#9 To move the goalposts



To unfairly change the rules or conditions of a procedure during its course.


  • You always do the same. As soon as I start winning the argument, you just move the goalposts on the whole thing!
  • Every time I meet the required conditions, they seem to move the goalposts.

#10 At this stage of the game



At this point, or at a certain point in a process


  • There is nothing we can do at this stage of the game, we should have started before.
  • I’m not sure we’re ready to launch the product at this stage of the game.


So, at this stage of the game, we know the score – it’s easier to just watch from the sidelines and do nothing, but seriously, we always get a kick out of seeing your likes and comments on Facebook, so get the ball rolling and pay us a visit.

We hope you learned some new football idioms and that you can add them to your repertoire. If you need more and would like to learn business idioms, please take a look at our special business idioms compilation.


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