The Run of Play is a blog about
the wonder and terror of soccer.

We left the window open during a match in October 2007 and a strange wind blew into the room.

Now we walk the forgotten byways of football with a lonely tread, searching for the beautiful, the bewildering, the haunting, and the absurd.

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Phrasenschwein Project Update

The DSF Phrasenschwein A couple of months ago I told you about an idea I had for a “Dictionary of Generic Narrative in Football”—a glossary of terms that would teach aspiring soccer fans how to talk about the game using the most widely admired and up-to-date cliches. At that point, I promised project updates, and here’s the first. Eventually, the lexicon will be many times longer than this and so exhaustive that anyone who reads it will immediately be eligible to work at the BBC.

Please feel free to submit your own entries to or through comments. Any contributions that make the final list will be credited when it takes its place of honor in the sidebar, where it will remain, with your name attached, for as long as humanity endures and I keep paying my server costs.

ASIA A source of “untapped markets.”

BACK (v.t.) To praise by rote in a press conference. Writers: Should only be used in headlines; otherwise reformulate as “a ringing statement of support.”

CATENACCIO Apply to any 1-0 game.

DIVING Joke that it was caused by the wind. Of English players: “Did he dive, or did he just lose his balance?”

FIERY Euphemism for “alcoholic.”

FORMATIONS Overrated: the game is about the players.

FOULS (HARD) “There’s no excuse for that kind of thing.” Alternately: “It’s a man’s game.” “He just gave him a little tap.”

GOAL It only takes one to change the game.

HELENIO HERRERA You don’t need to know who he is.

HOOLIGANS Sophisticated: They’re usually middle-class professionals. Ultra-sophisticated: Blame Margaret Thatcher. Everyone else: Publicly deplore them, then turn to YouTube in secret.

MARADONA Better than Pele. See PELE.

METATARSAL A part of the body that was discovered shortly before the 2006 World Cup. A mark of weakness: “They didn’t have those when I was playing.”

PENALTY SHOOTOUT A lottery. Note that you can’t practice for them. England will lose through one in the quarterfinals.

PELE Better than Maradona. See MARADONA.

REAL MADRID Their two unforgivable crimes are fascism and galacticos.

OFFSIDE RULE Women never understand it. When confused, state angrily that the attacking player should have received the benefit of the doubt.

RINUS MICHELS Said “football is war.”


TOTAL FOOTBALL Mention when any Dutch side scores three goals. Always a “breathtaking display.”

TRANSFER RUMORS A sign of the decline of modern football. Spread them at all costs.


Phrasenschwein Project Update

by Brian Phillips · July 23, 2008

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