In this football language podcast we take a look at some football phrases that use the verb ‘to pick up‘, including, ‘pick up a caution‘; ‘pick up some points‘ and ‘pick up a player‘. 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 football/soccer. If you have questions or comments about this or any other phrase then email us at:

Learning English Through Football Podcast: To pick up

DF: Hello everyone, this is Damian from the Learning English Through Football team. I hope we are all doing well and enjoying the football. I’m one half of the languagecaster team and I’m based in a rather chilly London, with the other member of the team being Damon and he of course is living in Tokyo in Japan. Now, how is your favourite team getting on? Have they picked up a win recently? Has their form picked up? Did they pick up a bargain in the recent transfer window? Or do your players forget to pick up an opposition player at a corner? Well, you might have already guessed that the main focus of today’s football-language podcast is all about the verb phrase ‘to pick up‘ as we look at some of the ways we use it in football.

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 at: or ask a question on our football language forum.

Stinger: You are listening to (Spanish fan).

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To pick up

Now, I mentioned that today’s focus will be on the verb ‘to pick up‘ which has lots of different meanings in the world of football. So, here are some of the words that we’ll be explaining in today’s podcast:

  • To pick up a caution or to pick up a booking
  • To pick up a player
  • To pick up a win
  • To pick up some form
  • A pick-up game

Stinger: You are listening to (in Vietnamese).

To pick up a booking/caution

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To pick up a booking (or a caution) means to receive a yellow card from the referee – maybe the player has committed a bad foul or used dissent to the referee. The player picked up (or collected) the booking for a bad foul on an opponent, we might say. We might also hear that a player has picked up their fifth booking of the season – they have been booked five times.

To pick up a player (To mark)

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Now, literally this phrase would mean lifting another player but in football it is used to describe one player marking an opponent, for example when defending a corner or a free kick. When I am playing football, I might sometimes tell my team mates to pick up a player which means that they are free and need to be covered or marked (Don’t forget you can find lots of football expressions we use during a match in the podcast ‘playing the game‘ – it’s one of more popualr ones). If a player was standing in acres of space (there was no one near them at all), this might be because the defender failed to pick them up  – they didn’t mark them. So, another way of saying that a player has not been picked up is that they are unmarked – no one has picked them up.

To pick up a player (To buy)

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So, to pick up a player has another meaning – when a team buys a new player or gets a new player then we can say that they have picked up the player. So, for example, Manchester United recently picked up two players on loan in the recent transfer window – they signed two players on short-term contracts.

To pick up a win/a point

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So, to pick up a win means to win and to pick up a point means to draw a game – the team has collected or earned a point. If a team fails to win in a run of games we can say that they have not picked up a win -so a couple of seasons ago Newcastle United failed to pick up three points (a win) after the first 12 games of the season – they needed to pick up three points to help them in their relegation battle.

To pick up some form

Sometimes a team is not playing very well and so we can say that they are in bad or poor form. Not only does this team need to pick up some wins or points they need to improve or pick up their form. So, recently, Tottenham have won their last three matches after a poor run of form so they have picked up their form, it has improved.

A pick-up game

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Sometimes we might hear the term ‘a pick-up game‘ which is a game of football played between friends in an informal setting. Probably there is no kit or referee or maybe not even any goals – it is just a friendly game and probably takes place in the local park or any space that players can find. I think this term would be used a lot more in north America raher than here in the UK to describe this type of game. Have you ever played in a pick-up game somewhere?

Stinger: You are listening to (in German).


Yes, that message was in German and if you’d like to send us 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 of the different meanings connected to ‘pick up‘: pick up a caution (receive a booking); pick up a player at a corner (mark the player); pick up a player in the transfer market (buy or loan a player); pick up a point (to draw the game) and a pick-up game is a frindly match among friends. Let us know if you know any other words that use the verb ‘to pick up‘ – in any language – by adding a comment below our post here or by dropping us a line at:

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

Learn English Through Football
Learn English Through Football

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Football GlossaryEpisode 46