Football Language: To park the bus

This week’s English for football is ‘park the bus‘. Many people say that this phrase was first used by Jose Mourinho when he was Chelsea’s manager in his first season (2004). He was describing a negative Tottenham team who played very defensively in a meeting between the two London clubs some years ago. To park the bus, means to play very defensively, to get a lot of players behind the ball, to offer no attacking play. Imagine a bus parked in front of the goal. It is almost impossible to score, so people use ‘to park the bus‘ to mean one team was very negative, boring and defensive. This week’s Champions League semi-finals were not very exciting and Barcelona have accused Chelsea of playing very negatively, of ‘parking the bus‘ in front of goal. To park the bus.

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  • Example: Sunderland were accused of parking the bus and making no attempt to win the game.
  • Example: Read an academic article on the phrase ‘parking the bus‘ from Wyatt and Hadikin (2015)

If you have any ideas on some football phrases for our site, let us know by emailing us at Check out our glossary of footballing phrases here


Learn English Through Football
Learn English Through Football

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Football ClichesEpisode 29