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 II

The DSF Phrasenschwein

The Phrasenschwein Project is our ongoing effort to compile a Dictionary of Received Ideas for football—a glossary that will teach aspiring fans how to talk about the game using the most admired and up-to-date clichés. See here for the history of the project. Eventually, the list will be much longer and anyone who reads it will be qualified to write Alan Hansen’s Telegraph column.

This is a collaborative effort. Please submit your own entries to or through the comments section. 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?”

FEELING EACH OTHER OUT The explanation when neither team does anything in the first ten minutes of a match. Use “taking the measure of each other” instead in highly anticipated games.

FIERY Euphemism for “alcoholic.” Also: “Southern European.”

FORMATIONS Overrated: the game is about the players.

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

FRANZ BECKENBAUER Always call him “Der Kaiser.” Only won in ’74 thanks to Gerd Müller.

GEORGE BEST The fifth Beatle.

GERMANY Note their size, strength, and organization. You can never afford to take them lightly.

GOAL It only takes one to change the game.

GOOOOOOOOAAALL! The only thing most Americans know about soccer. Try to include in any football-related film, especially a documentary.

GOALKEEPER It’s good for his confidence to get his hands on the ball early. Will ask questions of a disorganized defense. Always caught flat-footed by a brilliant shot. Of a lucky save: “He didn’t know too much about that.”

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

HIGH FOOT A free kick for one wouldn’t be given in the Premier League.

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

INSPIRATIONAL Use of captains who went through the ranks of the club’s youth system.

LURK WITH INTENT A tactic used by aging goal-poachers to play offside without being called for it.

MANNSCHAFT If there is something amusing about this word, you must never let on that you know it.

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.”

NAIVE An African side which has just conceded a goal.

NEXT MARADONA Every young Argentine is called this eventually. Be dismissive: “There was only one Maradona.”

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

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.

PIPPO INZAGHI He was born in an offside position.

REAL MADRID Their two unforgivable crimes are fascism and galacticos.

RINUS MICHELS Said “football is war.”

SAMBA Applies to any 10-yard square pass involving a Brazilian player. The two pillars of Brazilian life are football and the dance.

SECOND STRIKER Does the role actually exist?

SIMULATION Occurs whenever a long-haired player falls to the ground. See DIVING.


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.

WET NOVEMBER NIGHT AWAY TO SCUNTHORPE A thought experiment used to disprove the virility of foreigners. “He may have scored 53 goals in La Liga last season, but I wouldn’t fancy his chances on a wet November night away to Scunthorpe.”

Contributors: nick, Linda, ursus arctos, Fredorrarci, gvb, Richard Whittall, Timoteo, Ryan

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Phrasenschwein Project, Update II

by Brian Phillips · February 25, 2009

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