To fluff – in this short podcast on the language of football we explain this verb and how it is used to talk about football. You can access the transcript of the show below, and also check out our huge glossary of footballing phrases here. We have hundreds of previous posts and podcasts too on our website. If you are a teacher of English, why don’t you use the audio and transcript to provide practice for their students: Try a gap-fill activity for example. And learners of English can access all resources for free.  Let us know if you have any suggestions or questions then you can contact us at

Learn English Through Football

DB: Hello and welcome to languagecaster, the site and podcast for all lovers of the beautiful game – football – and for those interested in learning English, too. My name is Damon and I am based in Tokyo, Japan. Damian, the other half of the languagecaster team, is half a world away in London. I wonder how he is feeling after Liverpool came out on top in the languagecaster derby. That’s his team Tottenham and mine, Liverpool. These two teams clashed early in May with Liverpool came out on top after a thrilling 4-3 game. I imagine he is gutted, as it was an extra time winner that stopped Tottenham earning a point after they had come back from 3-0 down to equalise in extra time. Very dramatic!

You can check out Damian’s previous podcast, in which he explains the use of the verb to bottle, as in to bottle it if you come to or if you subscribe via all those podcast sites.

The football language we are looking at today is connected usually, but not always, with shooting.

sniffStinger: You are listening to (in Mongolian)

DB: Yes, you are listening to languagecaster and that message was in Mongolian.

(to) Fluff

DB: Right, today’s football language is a verb – to fluff.

The meaning we are looking at today is to make a mess off or to make a mistake. It seems that in the 19th century it described an actor making a mistake with their speeches or lines. So, you may hear the phrase to fluff their lines, meaning to misremember their speech, to stumble over the words.

Later, in sport, it meant to make a mistake with a stroke in golf, for example, or, in football, to miss a shot or to miss a chance.

Let’s look at a few examples. The first is from the minute-by-minute reporting in the Guardian. The match is from a Women’s Super League game between Chelsea and Liverpool: ‘The Norwegian fires a good ball over into the danger zone. But it bounces a bit high for Kerr, who can only fluff an effort over the goal.’

So, here we have the striker, Kerr, with a shot, which is described as an effort, that she hits over the goal, over the cross bar. The description ‘fluff an effort’ makes it clear that the chance was a good one, one that she should expect to get on target or score with.

This second example from the Boot Room Football website uses the original phrase with ‘lines‘: ‘One key chance for Nunez came around the 30th minute. After being played through by Trent Alexander-Arnold, Nunez went on to miss the ball completely and fluff his lines.’

This describes Liverpool striker, Nunez, missing a good chance, by missing the ball completely and fluffing his lines. He should score, it was a good chance, but he totally missed it – fluffing the chance.

Chance, effort, shot, lines

So, you will often hear the words chance, effort, shot, or even lines used with to fluff. You can also describe a goalkeeper fluffing a save. The emaning is always that the attempted move or action  failed. A fluffed shot is a poor shot; a fluffed clearance, is a bad clearance.
With that original form – to fluff your lines, the phrase is often used with a team. For example, you may expect a team to win a championship by winning a final game in the season. But if they fail to win, and fail to become champions, they fluffed their lines – they didn’t do what they were expected to do, and they probably have big regrets!

Stinger: You are listening to (in Urdu)

Thank you for that message and that was in Urdu. Contact us if you want to ask any football-language questions or have comments at You can also use the forum on our site You can find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Follow and retweet, etc. Spread the word please!


DB: OK, well that’s it for this show. We’ll be back soon. Enjoy all of the football. Ta-ra!

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.

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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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FEpisode 58