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Football Phrase 2008-09: 12th Man/12th Woman

During the 2008-09 season, the languagecaster team explain a football phrase or cliché for learners of English who love the sport. This week we explain the phrase ‘12th man/12th woman‘. You can read the transcript for this post below, while you can also check out our huge football glossary of footballing phrases here and visit our site to access all our previous posts and podcasts. If you have any suggestions or questions then you can contact us at

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This week’s English for football is ‘twelfth man and tweflth woman‘. This term is used to refer to the fans of a team. Each team in football has 11 players on the pitch, but if the fans are particularly loud in their support they can help their team, they can encourage them. When this happens the fans are called the twelfth man or twelfth woman – they have the effect of an extra player: the game is now 11 vs 12. Before the Liverpool v Chelsea game in the Champions League John Terry, Chelsea’s captain, said he wasn’t going to let Anfield’s 12th man affect their performance – he was right. This time Anfield’s twelfth man, the fans, couldn’t help their team to victory. Many teams refer to their fans as the 12th man, and fans themselves will also carry banners calling themselves the 12th man. The twelfth man/The twelfth woman.

Example: “When I was playing professionally it really was a man’s game. Thankfully times have changed, and in a big way, and I’m really proud to be a 12th Woman and to wear the T-shirt for all to see” Harry Redknapp (Women in Football, July 11 2022)

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