Italians on Italians
Beyond Toscano

The language of soccer - popular soccer expressions

The language of soccer - popular soccer expressions
In Italy, a passion for soccer occupies so much of peoples’ time and thinking that many expressions and phrases that began life on the soccer field have gone on to enter the popular vernacular over the years. Here are a few highlights:
Essere nel pallone – being in the ball.
While in English, being on the ball means being sharp and in control, in Italy, being in the ball means exactly the opposite. If you were in the ball, you’d be knocked around a lot and disoriented, so this expression is used to suggest someone is exactly that (often through intoxication).
Avere la testa come un pallone – having a head like a ball.
Unlike our friend Ciao, mascot of the FIFA 1990 Italia World Cup, having a ball for a head is generally not a good thing. An expression of stubbornness, it suggests someone is unable to listen to new ideas or opinions and they fall on deaf, leathery, ball-like ears.
Pallone gonfiato – a blow up ball.
An expression used to describe someone arrogant or pompous with an over-inflated ego or sense of self-worth.
Dribblare – To dribble (with a ball)
This is a phrase that has migrated from meaning ‘to dribble the ball’ on a soccer pitch, to a more general way of moving around an object or problem evasively.
Fare spogliatoio – Make the dressing room
An expression from the locker room that suggests someone is part of a team and committed to a conspiracy or secret agreement between parties.