Scoring with Language: Exploring Football Idioms in English

Football, known as the beautiful game, has not only captured the hearts of millions worldwide but has also influenced the English language with its rich vocabulary of idioms. In this article, we kick-off our linguistic journey by delving into the world of "football idioms" and discover how these expressions add flair and excitement to everyday conversations.

List of "Football Idioms":

Kick off  

Meaning: To start something, often used in the context of events or discussions.

Example: "Let's kick off the meeting with a quick overview of the project."

Hail Mary 

Meaning: A desperate, last-ditch effort to achieve something, inspired by a long, high-risk pass in football.

Example: "With only seconds remaining, he made a hail Mary attempt to win the game."

Move the goalposts 

Meaning: Changing the rules or conditions of a situation to gain an advantage.

Example: "The company kept moving the goalposts, making it difficult for employees to achieve their targets."


Meaning: To surprise or catch someone off guard, akin to a sudden tackle from an unseen angle in football.

Example: "The question completely blind-sided him during the interview."

Back to square one

Meaning: Returning to the starting point, often after experiencing a setback.

Example: "After hours of work, the computer crashed, and she had to go back to square one."

Keep the ball rolling

Meaning: To maintain the momentum or progress of an activity.

Example: "Let's keep the ball rolling with more innovative ideas."

Play hardball 

Meaning: To act aggressively or uncompromisingly in a situation, similar to the tough playing style in football.

Example: "In the negotiation, they decided to play hardball to secure the best deal."

A game of two halves

Meaning: Describes a situation with two distinct periods or phases, each with its own characteristics.

Example: "The project seemed to be going poorly at first, but it turned into a game of two halves, with significant progress in the second phase."

Meaning & Examples: Football idioms inject the thrill of the game into everyday language, allowing us to express emotions and situations in a vivid and relatable manner. For instance, "kick off" doesn't necessarily involve a ball but signifies the commencement of an event or conversation. Likewise, "hail Mary" translates a daring, last-minute attempt to succeed, much like the long-shot tactic used in football.


  • The popularity of football idioms extends beyond the realm of sports and is commonly used in various contexts.
  • Understanding the game of football is not necessary to use these idioms effectively.
  • Many football idioms have become commonplace in business, politics, and daily life.

Questions and Answers:

  1. Q: Are football idioms exclusive to English?

  2. A: While football idioms are prevalent in English due to the sport's popularity, similar idioms related to other sports exist in various languages.

  3. Q: How can I effectively use football idioms in conversation?

  4. A: Incorporating football idioms in conversation adds color and familiarity. Ensure the idiom fits the context appropriately, and your message will be more engaging and memorable.

  5. Q: Can football idioms be used in formal writing?

  6. A: While some football idioms might be informal, others can be suitable for casual or formal writing, particularly in sports-related or metaphorical contexts.

Interesting Quotes:

"Success is no different than any other skill. It, too, can be learnt. All it takes is hard work and practice." - David Beckham.

"The more difficult the victory, the greater the happiness in winning." - Pele.

"Football is a simple game. Twenty-two men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win." - Gary Lineker.


Football idioms showcase the intrinsic connection between sports and language. Their prevalence in everyday communication underscores the universal appeal of the beautiful game and its influence on English expression. As you incorporate these idioms into your lexicon, you'll find yourself scoring linguistic goals, adding excitement and character to your conversations. So, let's embrace the spirit of the sport and enjoy the thrill of football idioms on and off the field of language!

related articles
Langly Inc. © 2024