Football Language: Harsh

This post explains how the word  ‘harsh’ is used in football.

  • Find out more about this phrase by reading the transcript below.
  • You can also find many more examples of soccer vocabulary by going to our football cliches page here and our huge football glossary here.


The adjective ‘harsh‘ is often used when talking about when yellow or red cards are given. A referee has to decide when to award a foul, a yellow card, or a red card. If most people watching disagree wit the referee, they may say the decision was harsh – it means the referee chose a severe option when most people would not have done so. So, a phrase like ‘the yellow card was harsh‘ means the speaker thinks the referee was severe and even unfair – maybe 8 out of 10 people wouldn’t have given a yellow card. We can also use it as an adverb, ‘the player was harshly red-carded‘.

Example:A harsh red card for Gary Cahill in the 14th minute led to a tactical reshuffle.

Example: Zidane confirms Real Madrid to appeal Cristiano Ronaldo’s ‘harsh’ red card against Barcelona in the Spanish Super Cup

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I was born and brought up near Chester in the north west of England. I have always loved playing and talking about sport, especially football!
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