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French Football Expressions

‘Le football’ is a classic example of ‘franglais,’ the adoption into the French language of an English term. Since the modern game of football, the sport known to most of the English-speaking world outside the United Kingdom as ‘soccer,’ originated in England, it is hardly surprising that the French seized upon this useful word instead of clumsily translating it as something like ‘ballon à pied.’

In fact, talking or writing about football in French will always involve using a great deal of ‘franglais.’ ‘Le football’ is often shortened to ‘le foot,’ but should not be confused with ‘le footing’ (jogging). Other self-explanatory English football terms used in French are ‘le match,’ ‘le club,’ ‘le footballeur,’ ‘le short,’ ‘le corner,’ ‘le penalty,’ ‘le toss,’ ‘le tacle’ and ‘le dribble’; although, some of these words do have less popular French alternatives.

Anyone truly serious about acquiring French football vocabulary should consult the French page Lexique du Football, where they will find a comprehensive alphabetical list of both official and slang terms for participants, equipment, rules and the more arcane points of the game. For everyone else, the following introduction should be sufficient.


As already stated, the players can be ‘les footballeurs,’ but are also known as ‘les joueurs’ (the players). They play as part of ‘une équipe’ (a team) led by ‘le capitaine’ and coached by ‘un entraineur.’ The names for the positions on the field have changed over the years as new tactics have developed. In the modern game, the players are likely to belong to one of the following designations: un buteur (striker), un ailier (winger), un libéro (sweeper), un milieu (half) and un défenseur (defender). The only position which never changes its name is ‘le gardien de but’ (the goalkeeper). The rules of the games are enforced by ‘l’arbitre’ (the referee) and his touchline judges (‘les arbitres assistants’ or ‘les juges de touche/les arbitres de touche). The match is watched by ‘les spectateurs.’


The beauty of ‘le football’ is that very little equipment is required to play the game. As French Wikipedia states so eloquently, ‘Les équipements des joueurs comprennent un maillot, un short, une paire de chaussettes, des protège-tibias et des chaussures.’ (The players’ equipment consists of a jersey, shorts, a pair of socks, shin-guards and boots.) ‘Le match’ is played ‘dans le stade’ (in the stadium) ‘sur le terrain de jeu’ (on the pitch) using ‘le ballon de foot’ (soccer ball). ‘Le but’ (the goal) consists of ‘le filet’ (goal net), ‘les poteaux’ (goal posts) and ‘la barre transversale’ (the cross bar). Other noticeable post are ‘les piquets de corner’ (corner flags).

The referee has ‘un sifflet’ (a whistle),‘le carton jaune’ (the yellow card) and ‘le carton rouge’ (red card) to indicate the committing of a serious foul (‘la faute‘) or unsporting behavior (‘le comportement antisportif‘).

Playing the game

Once again, French Wikipedia summarises it perfectly: ‘Le football, ou soccer (en Amérique du Nord) est un sport collectif opposant deux équipes de onze joueurs dans un stade. L’objectif de chaque formation est de mettre un ballon sphérique dans le but adverse, sans utiliser les bras, et de le faire plus souvent que l’autre équipe.‘ Football, or soccer, as it is called in north America, is a team sport setting two teams of 11 players against each other at a sports ground. The aim of each group is to put a round ball in the opposition goal, without using the arms, and to do it more often than the other team.

The match consists of ‘deux périodes’ (two periods or halves) of 45 minutes each, punctuated by a half-time pause ‘la mi-temps.’ In the case of ‘l’égalité’ (equal scores) at the expiration of this time, the match will proceed to ‘la prolongation’ (extra time) if it is a match where a definite result is required, such as an elimination round. The referee can also decree extra time to replace ‘les arrêts de jeu’ (game stoppages) as a result of injuries or disputes. Player moves include ‘le tacle’ (tackle), ‘le dribble’ (dribbling), ‘un coup de tête’ (header), ‘une passe’ (pass), ‘une remise en jeu/une touche’ (throw in) and ‘un tir’ (shot). A successful goal is ‘un but’, but players accidentally scoring a goal against their own team have made ‘un but contre son camp‘ (own goal). Anyone who knows the rules of ‘le football’ will be familiar with ‘la règle du hors-jeu’ (offside rule), ‘un coup de pied de coin/un corner‘ (corner kick), ‘un coup franc’ (free kick) and ‘un coup de pied de réparation‘ (penalty kick).

Acquiring the vocabulary applicable to your favorite sport or hobby is an excellent way to improve your knowledge of French, since it combines pleasure with learning. With ‘le football’ you are off to a flying start because there are so many terms the French have borrowed from English. So instead of choosing to ‘chauffer le banc de touche’ (keep the substitute bench warm) leave the sidelines and ‘Paticipez au jeu!’ (Join in the game!)

Original Content: humanities360.com


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