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Learning English Through Football Podcast: Halloween Language

In this football language post we look at some words connected to Halloween that appear in football. There is a transcript with this listening activity along with some vocabulary practice and you can also check out our football glossary and football cliches pages for hundreds more explanations of the language of soccer. If you have questions or comments about this or any other phrase then email us at:

Learning English Through Football Podcast: Halloween Language

DF: Hello everyone, this is Damian from the Learning English Through Football team. I hope we are all doing well and enjoying the football. How did your favourite team get on this week? My team Tottenham had a nightmare against the Red Devils as they were well beaten 0-3 at home by Manchester United this weekend. And so as at it’s Halloween we thought we’d look at some football words and phrases connected to all things horror, including of course nightmare and horror show two phrases that could easily describe that Spurs performance yesterday!

Now, don’t forget there is of course a transcript to go with this podcast – it’s great for teaching and learning English – and if you have any questions or comments about any of the football language in this report then you can contact us here at:

Stinger: You are listening to (Brazilian fan).

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DF: OK, let’s start our Halloween tour with the word nightmare which of course means a bad dream and when it’s used in football it means that a team has had a really bad game. We sometimes hear a shortened version of this term – a mare – as in they are having a mare which means that they are having a really bad game and everything they do goes wrong. My team Tottenham had a mare this weekend against Manchester United losing 3-0 at home to a poor Manchester United team really. We can also say that a keeper has had a mare if they let an easy shot go in and if they make a couple of gaffes or howlers (that’s mistakes), it means the keeper has had a mare.


The word ‘frightening‘ is often used to describe a team or a section of a team – usually the forward line – if they are really, really good. For example, the forward power of PSG with Mbappé, Messi and Neymar can be described as frightening because they are so good and they have the potential to score goals. It suggests that the opposition is frightened or afraid of them because they have lots of firepower. We might also hear the phrase ‘frightening pace‘ which again refers to the defence being afraid or scared of the speed of the opposition forwards.

Horror Show

Now, I’ve already mentioned this phrase ‘horror show‘ which is another phrase used to describe a really, really poor performance by a team. I think we might specifically hear this phrase used with a poor defensive performance: it was a defensive horror show, for example. Here’s another example from from 2017: ‘Rudiger & David Luiz endure Halloween horror show’ and this means that the two Chelsea defenders suffered a horror show – they were really bad and their mistakes allowed Roma to score three times. We could of course also say that they had a mare.
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Horror Tackle

Another football expression with the word ‘horror‘ in is the phrase ‘horror tackle‘ which is used to describe a really bad, maybe even a nasty tackle, on an opponent. Another way of saying this kind of tackle – maybe it was late or over the top – is an X-rated tackle meaning it is so nasty that children should not be allowed to see it. In the recent Manchester derby in the Women’s Super League, Georgia Stanway was sent off for a horror tackle – this is how the Manchester Evening News reported on it: ‘Georgia Stanway horror tackle overshadows WSL thriller as… City resist Man United fightback’.


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If a player moves easily past another opposition player we can say that they have ghosted past them. Former Barcelona and Spain attacking midfielder Andrés Iniesta often ghosted past the opposition defence by using his close control and turn of pace.

Another football expression that uses the word, ‘ghost‘ is to ghost in at the far post which is used when a player runs into the penalty area late meaning it is difficult to pick them up or mark them; it is difficult to see these players so we say that they ghost in.

Wand of a left foot

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Now, we often hear this expression used when describing how skillful a left-footed player is – they are able to open up a defence with a through ball or dribble past a defender easily. I am not sure that we would hear this phrase when describing a right-footed player, maybe we use it with players with a great left peg (that’s another word for foot) because there are not as many left footers? Another term we often hear when describing left-footed players is a ‘sweet left foot‘, again, I don’t know if we’d hear the phrase ‘sweet right foot’ in football.

Thriller; Trick; Magic and Spell

There are of course lots of other Halloween-related words and phrases that are used in football such as thriller: a seven-goal thriller which means that the game was an exciting one and the fans were thrilled throughout the match as the result maybe frequently changed hands. We can also sometimes hear the word ‘trick‘ used as a verb as in the phrase, ‘the player tricked their way into the box‘ which would mean that the player had jinked or dribbled past a player by using some kind of skill.

Magic is often used in football to describe a really skillful player. For example, Messi weaved his magic means that the Argentinian player did something wonderful with the ball to either open up the defence or to leave the defender in his wake. Former Liverpool player Philippe Coutinho was nicknamed ‘the little magician‘ as he was able to trick his way past defenders on a regular basis – I wonder if there are other players with a similar nickname? We sometimes also hear the word ‘spell‘ in football. Now this has two meanings: first it is often used to describe a period of time in a game such as when a team has a lot of possession, so, it was a good spell for United in the game. But also we could hear that a player has cast a spell on the opposition which means that the opposition cannot stop this player because they are simply too good.
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Group of Death; Red Devils and Screamer

The Group of Death is an expression to describe the so-called toughest group in an international tournament; it contains three or four teams who are ranked highly meaning that one of the top teams or favourites may not qualify. The Red Devils of course is the nickname for Manchester United but they are not the only team: The Belgian national team are also known as the Red Devils. How about the word ‘screamer‘? Now a screamer in football refers to a really well-hit shot that goes into the net at great pace: a thunderbolt is another way of saying this.

Stinger: You are listening to (in Greek).

DF: Yes, that message is in Greek and if you’d like to send a message in any language for our podcast then contact us here at – we’d love to hear from you.

OK, that’s it for this short podcast in which we’ve looked at some language connected to Halloween including the words ‘screamer‘, ‘thriller‘; ‘magic‘; ‘trick past a defender‘; ‘frightening pace‘ and ‘horror show‘. Let us know if you know of any other similar words – in any language - by adding a comment on our post or by dropping us a line at:

Now you can also come along to our forum where you can ask or answer any questions you have on football language. Now, recently we have looked at the phrases, ‘touch off the ball‘ and ‘ring the changes‘. So, come along and participate in our football language community on the forum.

And don’t forget there is also a transcript for this report and of course we have a huge glossary of football language here at – hundreds and hundreds of entries, including many of the words and phrases from today’s show. OK, myself and Damon, who is of course based in Tokyo, will be back soon with some more football language. Enjoy all the football this week and we’ll see you again soon. Bye bye.

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

Learn English Through Football
Learn English Through Football
Learn English Through Football

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