If you’re a soccer fan living in these United States, you’ve been there. Out of town on business, you’re stuck watching the big game at the only Mexican joint close to your hotel. The broadcast and running commentary from the regulars at the bar is all en español. Or maybe Telemundo gets exclusive rights to show the U20 World Cup, and you just have to watch. Or there’s that Latino side in your Sunday rec league that beats you every time, and you just know they make fun of your crappy defensive skills, but you’re not sure because you can’t understand what they’re saying.
Never fear, I’m here to help. Consider yourself registered for Advanced Soccer Spanish 201 at Four Five Two University*, where I’ll teach you all the handy Spanish soccer terms and phrases you’ll need to survive in a nation of rapidly changing demographics. I’m going to assume you’re already familiar with the most well-known Spanish soccerisms like “GOOOL” (goal!), “GOLAZO” (great goal!), “fútbol” (fruit bowl), and “PUTO” (what the Mexico fans yell whenever Tim Howard takes a goal kick at the Rose Bowl). If these words sound foreign and strange to you, get your books and go transfer into Remedial Soccer Spanish for Honkies. I think they meet in one of the portables out by the retention pond.
One more caveat. Just like English, Spanish words tend to mean different things in different countries. I’ll teach you the ones I’m familiar with as a result of growing up in Argentina, and will try to throw in synonyms that are popular in other countries as well. I can’t possibly come up with every variation, though. Let’s get started.
Cañito (pron. kahn-YEE-toe) Literally means “little pipe”, this is the classic term for the nutmeg. You know, when a player manages to slot the ball through a defender’s legs. There are many, many different terms for the nutmeg in Spanish, because it’s one of the most humiliating things that can happen to you on the pitch. Also accepted: caño (kahn-yo) regular size pipe, túnel (two-nell) tunnel, teléfono (tell-EFF-oh-no) telephone, sotana (so-tah-nah) this is one of my favorites, as it refers to a friar’s frock, i.e., “if that guy had been wearing a frock, he wouldn’t have gotten ‘megged.” Classic.
Chilena (chee-leh-nah) This is your garden variety bicycle kick. The word means “Chilean” and Spanish Wikipedia credits one Ramón Unzaga Asla with the invention. A Spaniard who emigrated to Chile in the early 20th century and adopted Chilean citizenship at the age of 18, Unzaga pulled off the acrobatic move for the first time in 1914 at a match in the city of Talcahuano. In Brazil and many Latin countries, the bicycle kick is known as a bicicleta (bee-see-CLEH-tah). Also accepted: chalaca (chah-LA-cah).
Taco, taquito I won’t even bother with the pronunciation guide for this one, but let me warn you, I’m not talking about delicious Mexican food (I know, sad face). Taco is also the Spanish word for heel, and it’s used in reference to the flashy heel kick. Ronaldinho used to try this move about twice a game, with mixed results. Another common expression is to say that a player did something on the pitch “de taquito”, meaning it was so easy for him, he barely had to tap the ball with his heel to make it happen. Also: taconazo (ta-co-NA-so) a really hard heel kick.
I’ll be back next week with a lesson on pigeons, big hats, and fishing.