Football Language Podcast: Controversial Penalties

Today’s football language listening post looks at football phrases linked with controversial penalties: invite contact and go to ground.

Controversial PenaltiesOn today’s football language listening post we take a look at some football phrases linked with talking about controversial penalties, including invite contact and go to ground. In this audio report we have a transcript which is great for learners and teachers of English. If you have questions or comments about this, or any other football phrase, you can email us at:

Football Language Podcast: Controversial Penalties

You’re listening to Hello everyone, thank you for tuning in to the podcast for everyone who loves football and for those wanting to improve their English language skills. My name’s Damon, one half of the languagecaster team, and today, I’m going to be talking about some football language in the football news this week – and the football language is connected with penalties.

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OK, let’s start our look at some football language in the news. We are focusing on the Premier League and this week two penalties were awarded and made the news as people discussed whether or not the penalty decision was correct or not.

First, in Liverpool’s game against West Ham, Salah was awarded a penalty. The second penalty was awarded to Harry Kane in his team, Tottenham’s game against Brighton and Hove Albion. We’re not going to talk about whether the penalties should have been awarded, but when I’d like to talk about some of the language we can use when discussing these kinds of incidents.

The football phrases

First, you may have noticed we often use the verb ‘award’ with penalty. So Salah was awarded a penalty (by the referee), or the referee awarded a penalty to Tottenham. This looks at the decision from the referee’s point of view. The referee awards the penalty.

However, we can use another verb if we look at the event from the players point of view. So our second word is – win – a player can ‘win’ a penalty – actually, they can also win a foul too but we are focusing on penalties in this show. Now, to ‘win’ a penalty implies the player did something active to make another player foul them. They were involved somehow in getting the penalty.

For example, they can ‘go to ground’ – this means when they are fouled, or touched, by an opposing player they fall over – they go to ground. This can often ‘win’ a penalty. Again, to go to ground implies the player had a choice. Many people said that Salah went to ground too easily after a slight touch.

A player can also win a penalty, and here is our fourth phrase, by ‘inviting contact’. This means the player puts themselves in a position where they know they will be touched by the opposing player. They invite the  foul, they invite contact. Many pundits think that Harry Kane invited contact the he won a penalty by backing in – moving backwards towards another player. 

So, when we talk about penalties, especially whether they should be given or not given we can use – to award a penalty, to win a penalty, go to ground, and to invite contact.

Check out our glossary of footballing phrases here. If you have any suggestions, contact us at

Learn English Through Football
Learn English Through Football

Free football language podcast for learners of English brought to you by Damian and Damon. Interviews, match reviews, predictions all with full language support for football fans around the world who wish to improve their English language skills.


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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