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The Pigeon Without Wings

by John-Erik Jordan

and other Brazilian Football Sayings

Brazilians clearly know their stuff when it comes to futebol. They have the winningest team in World Cup history – bringing home the trophy in 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002 – and they are the only country that has qualified for every single World Cup since the first one in 1930. Brazil has produced some of the most legendary players in the history of soccer, and Brazilians of all walks of life are serious about the game – as players and spectators. They might just be the most soccer-obsessed people on Earth.

It’s undeniable that Brazil is “o País do Futebol” (the country of football), but not everyone may be aware that Brazilians also have their own “língua do futebol”. I consulted Pedro, our resident carioca da gema, to learn about his favorite Brazilian-Portuguese football expressions.

Check out the video above, or our infographic to learn the phrases and see them in action.

FUTEBOL BRASILEIRO

  • To give someone a hat (dar um chapéu) means to chip the ball over their head and ran past them.

  • You say that a defender went to buy bread (foi comprar pão) when he’s been so totally flummoxed by an attacker that he’s simply left standing. Another way to describe this situation is that the defender was left without mom and dad (ficar sem pai nem mãe) .

  • A cow dribble (o drible da vaca) is a play where you kick the ball to one side of a defender and run around the other.

  • To get egged (levar um ovinho) means to let the ball get kicked through your legs. The term is specific to Rio de Janeiro, while in other parts of Brazil they say to get penned (levar uma caneta). In English, this is called getting “nutmegged”.

  • Where the owl sleeps (onde a coruja dorme): refers to the corner of the goalpost.

  • A really beautiful play can be referred to as a painting (uma pintura).

  • A pigeon without wings (um pombo sem asas) is a ball that’s been kicked very forcefully towards the goal from very far away.

  • A plaque goal (gol de placa) is a really wonderful goal that deserves to be commemorated with a plaque. The first gol de placa was scored by Pelé in 1961, during a game in Rio’s Maracanã stadium. The goal was so awe-inspiring that an actual plaque was erected shortly after the game, stating, “In this stadium on March 5, 1961, Pelé scored the most beautiful goal in the history of the Maracanã”. Ever since, um gol de placa refers to a goal so superlative that it deserves comparison to Pelé’s original.

Bonus: Goalkeeper Terms

  • You say that a goalie gets chickened or gets roostered (levar um frango / levar um peru) when he makes a bad mistake.

  • If he misses an easy save because his hands are too weak to resist the force of the ball you say that he had lettuce hands (ele tem mãos de alface).

Now that you know Brazil’s “língua do futebol” you can fully enjoy the beautiful game (o jogo bonito) and yell at the TV with the best of them.