Football in Spanish: Vocabulary and Phrases

If you are heading to Peru (or South America in general) and like the idea of having a kick-around with some future Nolberto Solano, it will help if you know some Spanish football terminology (soccer vocabulary for those of a North American disposition). Here are some of the key terms and expressions that you will need for playing (or watching) football in Spanish-speaking South America.

Quick Tip:  If traveling to or from Lima Airport, it is strongly recommended to use the luxury Airport Express Lima  bus to get to or from your hotel. Safer and cheaper than a taxi with no baggage limit as well as Free WiFi and USB chargers onboard, it is ideal for travelers.

Basic Spanish Football Terms


Nolberto Solano, Peruvian football legend (photo by Jcswayne, Wikimedia Commons)

These basic Spanish football terms will get you started on the road to footballing fluency:

  • ballpelota or balón
  • dugoutbanquillo
  • fan(s)hincha(s)
  • football fútbol
  • footballers futbolistas
  • friendly (match) – (partido) amistoso
  • game/matchjuego/partido
  • goal gol (to score a goal – marcar un gol)
  • goalpost palo
  • pass (the ball) – pase, toque
  • pitch cancha (also campo, field)
  • players jugadores
  • spectators espectadores
  • stadium estadio
  • studs (cleats) – tacos (football boots are generally known as tacos)
  • team equipo

Football in Spanish: Technical Terms


Victor Benitez Morales, Peruvian footballer and 1963 European Cup winner with AC Milan

Getting slightly more technical, we have the Spanish soccer terminology for rules and regulations:

  • foul falta
  • yellow cardtarjeta amarilla
  • red cardtarjeta roja
  • a sending-offuna expulsión
  • free kicktiro libre (directo or indirecto)
  • penalty penalti (also spelled penalty) or tiro penal (penalty shot)
  • throw-insaque de banda
  • corner kicksaque de esquina (the English word “corner” is also used in Spanish)
  • goal kick – saque de puerta/meta
  • offside posición adelantada or fuera de juego (the English “offside” is also used)
  • own goalautogol
  • substitution cambio (lit. change)
  • first halfprimer tiempo
  • second halfsegundo tiempo
  • half timemedio tiempo (also descanso, rest)
  • counterattack contraataque or contragolpe

  • Football Positions in Spanish

    If you want to join a game, you’ll need to choose your position:

    • goalkeeper arquero, portero or guardameta (arquero seems to be the most common in Peru)
    • defense defensa (as a whole, the defense is called la defensa. The back three or four is also termed la zaga)
    • central defendercentral
    • fullback (left/right )– lateral (lateral izquierdo or lateral derecho)
    • midfielder mediocampista (general; can be defensivo or ofensivo), centrocampista (central midfielder) or volante (various: mixto, ofensivo, de creación)
    • winger (left/right)– extremo (izquierdo/derecho)
    • forward delantero or atacante (attacker). A goal scorer or striker is also known as a goleador
    • centre forwarddelantero centro. The attack in general is known as el ataque or delantera (attacking line).
    • captain capitán
    • manager/coach técnico , entrenador or profe
    • substitute suplente
    • referee árbitro (referi is also used)
    • linesman línea, juez de línea (line judge) or árbitro asistente (referee’s assistant)

    Additional Football Terms in Spanish

    The word pichanga is a common Peruvian slang word used to refer to an informal kick-around between friends (it’s used in other South American countries too, but I’m not sure if it’s used in Spain).

    The best way to pick up more Spanish football terms is to watch a few matches on Spanish-language TV. ESPN Latin America (or ESPN Deportes in the U.S.) is a good option. The commentators have an amusing obsession for using player and manager nicknames; highlights include La Pulga (Lionel Messi, “The Flea”), Pinocho (Edwin van der Sar, “Pinocchio”) and Cara Roja (Alex Ferguson, “red face”).

    If you have any other Spanish football terms to add, slang or otherwise, feel free to post them in the comments box below. Thanks!


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