Decoding Brazilian Soccer Phrases

So you love soccer but do you know what a “pigeon without wings” is? Learn this and many other football sayings

Brazilians clearly know their stuff when it comes to futebol (and they’ve got the soccer phrases to prove it). They have the team with the most World Cup wins in history — bringing home the trophy in 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002 — and they are the only team to have played in every World Cup since the inaugural tournament in 1930.

We Are The Champions

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 — from kids playing in the street to the 10,000 Brazilians on professional teams around the world. They might just be the most soccer… uh, I mean football obsessed people on Earth. Brazilians refer to their country as o País do Futebol (the country of football) and, when a big game is on, entire cities will close for business so people can watch.

Local Insight

Brazilians clearly know their stuff when it comes to futebol. That’s why I consulted Pedro, our resident carioca da gema, for the inside track on Brazilian-Portuguese football terminology. Brazilian footballers have a style all their own and, not surprisingly, their fans have  unique soccer phrases to go along with it:

Futbol Brasileiro — The Best Brazilian Soccer Terms:

  • Where the owl sleeps (onde a coruja dorme) refers to the corner of the goalpost.
  • To give 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 give a small egg (dar 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”.
  • A pigeon without wings (um pombo sem asas) is a ball that’s been kicked very forcefully towards the goal from very far away.
  • During a game in 1961 in Rio’s Maracanã stadium, Pelé scored a goal so awe-inspiring that a plaque was erected, stating, “In this stadium on March 5, 1961, Pelé scored the most beautiful goal in the history of the Maracanã”. It was the first plaque goal (gol de placa), and ever since um gol de placa refers to a goal so superlative that it deserves comparison to Pelé’s original.
  • A really beautiful play can be referred to as a painting (uma pintura).

Bonus: Goalkeeper Terms

Goalkeepers have it tough in Brazil. There seem to only be clever phrases for when they screw up:

  • You say that a goalie gets chickened or gets a rooster (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 (soccer phrases) you can fully enjoy the beautiful game (o jogo bonito) and yell at the TV with the best of them.

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