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Ten English Idioms Related To Football

Ten English idioms related to football

It’s been an eventful summer for football. The FIFA Women’s World Cup has grabbed sports headlines, presenting us with lots of different English idioms related to football and sport. Here are our ten favorite English idioms to use in your everyday life to score points in your conversations! 

1. To be on the ball

This idiom means being alert, attentive, and quick to respond. It’s often used to describe someone who is actively engaged in a task and is capable of making quick decisions. Similar to a skilled player, who reacts swiftly to ball movements, “on the ball” suggests readiness to take action.

How to use it: Emily is always on the ball during meetings, catching even the smallest details.

2. To score an own goal

To “score an own goal” means to inadvertently contribute to one’s own failure or disadvantage. In sports like football or hockey, an “own goal” refers to a player unintentionally scoring for the opposing team. In a broader context, “scoring an own goal” refers to making a mistake or taking actions that harm one’s own interests, rather than benefiting them. It signifies an unintentional blunder that ends up causing problems or setbacks for oneself.

How to use it: His attempt to negotiate a better deal with the client ended up backfiring when he unintentionally disclosed sensitive information, effectively scoring an own goal.

3. To play ball

This idiom means to cooperate, engage, or work together in a collaborative manner. This expression comes from sports, particularly ball games like baseball or soccer, where players must work together as a team to achieve their goals. When someone says “let’s play ball,” they are inviting others to participate actively and contribute collectively to a task or activity. It signifies a willingness to collaborate and contribute one’s efforts towards a common objective.

How to use it: The team decided to play ball and collaborate on the challenging project.

4. To level the playing field

The idiom “level the playing field” means to create a fair and equitable situation where everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed. This expression originates from sports, where officials work to ensure that all teams have the same chances of winning by removing any unfair advantages. In a broader context, “leveling the playing field” refers to removing barriers, biases, or inequalities that could give certain individuals or groups an unfair advantage over others. It aims to create an environment where everyone has a fair chance to succeed based on their skills and abilities. 

How to use it: The new policy aims to level the playing field for all candidates in the job application process.

5. Get your head in the game

The idiom “get your head in the game” means to focus and concentrate fully on a task or situation. This expression draws its inspiration from sports, where athletes need to be mentally engaged and attentive during a game or competition. When someone tells you to “get your head in the game,” they are encouraging you to set aside distractions, be present, and direct your attention and energy towards the task at hand. It’s a reminder to be fully engaged and mentally prepared to perform effectively. 

How to use it: Before the exam, take a deep breath and get your head in the game.

6. In the same league

The idiom “in the same league” means that two things or people are comparable or of similar quality. This expression draws its inspiration from sports leagues, where teams compete against others of similar skill level. When two things are “in the same league”, they possess shared qualities, skills, or standards. It implies that they can be compared on an equal footing due to their similar qualities or capabilities.

How to use it: Their painting skills are in the same league, making them equally competitive in the art show.

7. Run with the ball

The idiom “run with the ball” means to take charge, lead, or take responsibility for a task, project, or situation. This expression draws inspiration from sports like football or soccer, where a player who possesses the ball has control and direction over the game. When someone tells you to “run with the ball,” they are encouraging you to take initiative, make decisions, and lead the effort to complete a task or achieve a goal. It implies being proactive and taking ownership of a situation.

How to use it: The team leader asked me to run with the ball and organize the charity event.

8. To sideline someone

The expression “to sideline someone” means to exclude or remove them from active participation in a situation, often limiting their involvement or influence. This phrase originates from sports, where sidelined players remain uninvolved in the ongoing game. In a broader context, “sidelining someone” refers to keeping them out of the main action or decision-making process. It implies reducing their role or impact in a particular situation, whether intentionally or not.

How to use it: Due to his constant interruptions, the boss decided to sideline him from the important meeting.

9. To move the goalposts

To “move the goalposts” is an idiom that means changing the rules or criteria of a situation in a way that makes it harder to achieve a goal. This expression originates from sports like football, where the goalposts are the upright structures used to score points. If someone moves the goalposts, it suggests that they are altering the conditions or requirements of a task or agreement after it started or progressed, making it more difficult for others to succeed. It implies a sense of unfairness or manipulation by changing the rules midway through the game, often causing frustration or disappointment for those involved.

How to use it: During the negotiation process, they seemed to be close to reaching an agreement, but then they suddenly moved the goalposts by adding new demands that we hadn’t discussed before.

10. Keep your eye on the ball

The expression “Keep your eye on the ball” means to stay focused and attentive to a particular task, goal, or situation. This phrase comes from sports like baseball or cricket, where players must maintain their concentration on the ball to perform well. In a wider scope, “keeping your eye on the ball” means staying focused on important aspects, avoiding distractions.

How to use it: While studying, remember to keep your eye on the ball and prioritize your academic goals.

Whether you’re a passionate football aficionado or simply fascinated by the huge variety of English idioms, these football-inspired idioms are a fun way of enhancing your English prowess. Much like athletes who train to excel, language learning takes a lot of hard graft. ELSA uses AI technology to accelerate your English learning, helping you reach your goals faster. So, check out how our new AI tutor can help you boost your English language skills! 

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