man marking

Man marking: minimising the effect of an opponent by following him for the whole match:

“Ferguson told Phil Jones to man-mark Fellaini and follow him everywhere”

Phil Jones successfully man marked Marouane Fellaini in Sunday’s match between Manchester United and Everton.

Read about this tactic here:

Brought to you by Football English, the vocabulary workbook for soccer.

Drogba and Henry talk about international football

Difficulty Level: 1→(2)→(3)

Background: Drogba and Henry are in Africa filming a television advert for Pepsi Cola. As part of their sponsorship commitments they have to make a short video.

Think about this question when you watch the video for the first time:

What does Drogba like about playing for the Ivory coast?

[afterwards read the text to check your understanding. Watching before reading to answer the question above will help you to develop your listening skills]

I know, obviously, you have two passports. The French one and the one from [the] Ivory Coast. So, what made you chose the Ivory Coast instead of the French team?

First of all I was born in [the] Ivory Coast. And I had the chance to move to France when I was 6 years old. So, I had both cultures, and… but… when I had to decide to play for the national team [to decide which national team to play for], my heart was more with the Ivory Coast. You know, when you hear the national anthem… it’s something crazy, you know. So, it was just natural. Even though it would have been a great pleasure to play with you in [the] French national team! But, you know, I think the experiences I am having with the Ivory Coast national team are really fantastic, and unforgettable.

It must be amazing because… how is it to wear that jersey, because for me, I grew up in France, I played in France, and it’s not like a big deal to leave Spain to go back to France. But, for you guys, I know, going back to Africa and wearing that jersey, and coming there… the guys as always, like, crazy to see you.

Yeah, they are crazy to see us, because, you know, we don’t go there often, you know, maybe once every two or three months. And because they see all the games, the Champions League and everything, so when we come back they’re really excited, and they want to show us their love, their support, so, you know, it’s really exciting.

Must be amazing.

It is.

Football in Nigeria

Difficulty Level: (1)→2→(3)

Background:It’s 2010. Just before the World Cup in South Africa. Gabriel Agu from Lagos, Nigeria, talks about his life and football.

Think about this question when you watch the video for the first time:

What aspects of Gabriel’s life demonstrate his passion for football?

[afterwards read the text to check your understanding. Watching before reading to answer the question above will help you to develop your listening skills]

I always open the shop around 11 to 12. And I say a little prayer. Then sweep every area, every angle inside [corner of] the shop. Then the day starts. I sell sports items in the shop; the likes of football boots, some football hose [or football socks], football flyers [scarves], short ???? [shorts], customised jerseys.

“I have Manchester”. “Yeah, Yeah, this one.”

The forthcoming World Cup. It has propelled me… as in going to the market to get some goods so that customers who are coming for the World Cup demands [for their World Cup needs]… I will not be found wanting.

The zeal that I have in me about football… is the passion that ???? in me… and can never go off [never go away]. Because that is my world. And that is what I am choosing, and that is what I am living.

The passion I have inside me entices customers [from] all around. In fact, the sales of [on] the market is boosting [have been boosted]. And I love it!

For more videos about the South African World Cup and its impact on the people of Africa visit:

Petr Čech – goalkeeping

Difficulty Level: 1→(2)→(3)
Common football vocabulary is defined at the bottom of the page.

Background:The Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Čech gives some goalkeeping advice.

Think about this question when you watch the video for the first time:
Goalkeeping isn’t only about stopping goals as Petr Čech says at the beginning of this video. What else does a goalkeeper need to be good at?
[afterwards read the text to check your understanding. Watching before reading to answer the question above will help you to develop your listening skills]

Hello, I’m Petr Čech, and welcome to the UEFA training ground.
Goalkeeping is all about stopping goals. Some say it’s the most important position on the pitch… you decide.
How do you get this good? Plenty of practice. But it can be fun. Here are some drills for you to become a great shot-stopper… having great reflexes can help you achieve this. Start by facing your goal with your back to the coach. On command, turn you around [turn around] and make your save. This is a good one to improve your reactions, and awareness and really speed up your feet.
Here’s a few tips… when the ball is kicked stay alert, keep your head steady and focus your eyes on the ball.
Next up, it’s all about ball distribution. Getting the ball out to your teammates quickly and accurately will help your team score a goal. This can be done by throwing or kicking. Start by rolling the ball out at another ball. Get some zip into the ball, [so] that your [team]mate can collect the pass easily. Also try the overarm throw for the longer distances.

A drill: an exercise, repeated many times, to practice a particular skill.
A shot-stopper: a goalkeeper who is good at saving shots (but maybe not so good at catching crosses or kicking/throwing the ball)
Awareness: the ability to know the location of other players and the directions in which they are moving, even though you cannot always see these players. Here, also the ability of the goalkeeper to know where he is in relation to his goal.
Ball distribution: how the goalkeeper kicks/throws the ball to his teammates.
Zip: speed [not very common]

Cesc Fabregas – post-match interview

Difficulty Level: (1)→2→(3)

[Important football vocabulary is defined at the bottom of the page]

Background: It’s September 2011. England have just between Spain 1-0. Cesc Fabregas is being interviewed post-match. In the summer of 2011 he moved from Arsenal to his home-town club Barcelona. This is his first football match back in England.

[Think about the answer to this question the first time you watch the video:]

Why isn’t Fabregas very concerned about this defeat to England?

[Afterwards, check your understanding with the text. Watching to get the answer to this question before you read will help you to improve your listening skills, and help you to focus on overall meaning first before looking at the detail]

Well Cesc, your first return to London ends in a defeat…. what were your thoughts on the game?

Well, two very different styles. I think we had at least 80, 85% of possession. We, just, played very well… we couldn’t find a goal. England just defending with 10 men, one up front, trying to go counter attack… I don’t know… sometimes this happens in football. We felt that the only way they could beat us is from a set piece, and that’s what happened.

And yourself, you came on in the second half, you had a couple of half-chances… you please to get involved in the game?

Yeah, I didn’t play [I haven’t played] for Spain for a very long time. Last year with injuries at Arsenal I didn’t at all. And, so it’s good to be back. You know… at the end of the day, it’s just a friendly game, and, you know, what we want to be is in… at the Euros next season, which is the most important [thing].

Of course, the two sides may even meet again there. So it will be a different game all together…

Oh, definitely, definitely, I mean that’s different you know. This is the way it is. We all want to win. England won this time, so just congratulate them, that’s it!

How do you feel Wembley went? … the atmosphere and the pitch and everything…?

It’s good. I’ve never won here. You know, I’ve played two times, I lost [I’ve lost] two. So, I will try to make this change [to change this]

Yourself, obviously been at Barcelona since the summer. How’s it going there? You settled in and pleased with the way you are playing?

Yeah, I’m very happy, very happy. You know, I’m feeling very good in the team and playing a lot. And, you know, everything at the moment is going on my way [is going for me]. So, I’m… hopefully it will keep going like that.

Thanks for your time.

A defeat: a loss, the opposite of ‘a win’
Possession: A team has possession of the ball when the team have the ball and they are passing it to each other.
Up front: in attack.
To counter attack: to quickly move the ball from your defence to your attack when the other team lose the ball.
A set-piece: a free kick, corner, or throw-in.
A friendly: a match which is not part of a competition.
The pitch: here it is used to talk about the quality of the playing surface. There had been problems with the quality of the grass at Wembley.

Referee- feedback after a match

Difficulty Level: 1→(2)→(3)

Background: It’s Euro 2008. It is the first week of the tournament. Referee Howard Webb and his two assistant referees have just officiated over a match. They meet the UEFA director of refereeing to receive feedback on their performance.

Think about this question when you watch the video for the first time:
There were two goals in the match. Were the referees right to give these goals?
[afterwards read the text to check your understanding. Watching before reading to answer the question above will help you to develop your listening skills]

I have to be honest Howard. The performance tonight… it was OK… the match was full [fully] under control. And it’s always a pity, and I know, I know it’s always a pity that you can’t do anything for it [you can’t do anything about it]. The most important situation of the match was the first goal. That’s [that was] terrible for the tournament. I cannot ignore the pictures shown by television to everybody of the whole world [all over the world]. So, overall it was OK, it was really not a problem, the match was full [fully] under control during 90 minutes [throughout the 90 minutes], no problems at all. It’s only a pity that these things happens [happen]. But, that’s our life boys, that’s our life. Sometimes we are the winners, sometimes we are the losers. We are not the losers today, but… I cannot ignore it. And the second point, the penalty was, very, very… the was a lot of discussions [discussion] about it. Tomorrow afternoon, one-thirty, I think we will have 6 or 7 clips, so then we will see. Yeah? OK? So, cheers again.

Wenger-learning English

Difficulty Level: 1→(2)→(3)

Background: Arsene Wenger is talking to a group of school children who are taking part in a project to encourage them to learn a foreign language. He tells them a story about his English learning experiences.

Think about this question when you watch the video for the first time:
What aspects of this story show that Wenger was very motivated to improve his English when he was 29 years old?
[afterwards read the text to check your understanding. Watching before reading to answer the question above will help you to develop your listening skills]

So where did you learn English. Was it at school? And can you tell us some of your memories of learning language at school…

Well, I learnt when I was, er 15 and 16 [for] 2 years, because it was not my first language. And I could just say ‘I am’, ‘you are’. And when I was 29 I was a football player, and all my friends went on holiday to Turkey and Greece. And I felt really deeply that I don’t speak well enough English [I didn’t speak English well enough]. I took a plane. Came to London. I asked, ‘how can I get to Cambridge?’ Because I thought that’s where you learn English. And I went to Cambridge in June during my football holidays, and I went from house to house, to see if I can have a bed and breakfast [if I could find bed and breakfast accommodation] and stay there. And finally somebody told me, ‘yes, I have a free room, you can stay here’.  And I asked her, ‘but where can I go to learn English?’. She said, ‘easy, you take a bike, rent a bike there, and you go to this building over there. And you ask for lessons. I went the next morning. Who did I meet there?  The girl who gave me bed and breakfast, she was teaching there! And I made the tests in the morning, and I was with… I was 28-29, and I was with children 12, 13, 14 for 3 weeks. But I never worked so hard, because [I was] so motivated to spend my holidays to learn English [learning English], that in 3 weeks I worked very, very hard. When I went back home, I read only novels in English [I only read novels in English]. And every word I didn’t know, I looked [up] in a dictionary. And that’s the way I learnt English.

Mourinho–how he became a football manager

Difficulty Level: (1)→2→(3)
Think about this question when you watch the video for the first time:
What factors helped Jose Mourinho become a top football manager?
[afterwards read the text to check your understanding. By watching the video only first – not reading the text – you will practice your listening skills and not just your reading]

Background: This is an extract from a documentary about Jose Mourinho which was made in 2010. Mourinho and his former boss Boby Robson talk about his early career…

… to be born with some natural talent, and after that there are many ways of become [of becoming] a top manager. I don’t like to say [I don’t like it when people say] that to become a great manager you had to [have to] be a great player. Because at this moment [at the moment] you have many of us in the top [at the top], and we weren’t a great players [great players]. So, there are many ways to become a great manager.

Mourinho got his break at Sporting Lisbon, thanks to an English man…

Jose introduced himself to me, because the President couldn’t, said who he was, what he was, and that he was to be my interpreter. He spoke very good English… good looking guy.. I told him not to stand next to me too many times! And we got stuck into the job, it was as simple as that.

He gave me a great chance of work [to work] at the top level when I was so young. And that for me was very important.

I needed him, on the pitch everyday. He stood behind me, listened…learnt…looked… wrote… remembered.

When Robson moved from Sporting Lisbon to Porto Mourinho went with him. He was no longer an addition to his managerial team, he was a vital part of it.

Pele’s Name

Difficulty Level: 1→(2)→(3)
Think about this question when you watch the video for the first time:
How have Pele’s feelings about his name changed during his life?
[afterwards read the text to check your understanding]

Background: This is from an interview with Pele in 2011

Do you mind being known as Pele rather than your real name?

My name is Edson Arantes do Nascimento. And, er, when I was young… nine years, ten years old, I used to fight, I didn’t like people call me Pele [I didn’t like people calling me Pele]. I didn’t know exactly what [it] means [meant]. My name is Edson, because after Thomas Edson [Edison]. You know, the engineer [inventor] of the light. I was very proud about [of] that. So my father was a soccer player from [who played for] ?Minergerise?, he went to Bauru Interland[?] of Sau Paulo, I was nine-to-ten years old [nine or ten years old]. Then I start[ed] to play with the kids there. I don’t know if he have some players [if there were some players] in ?Minergerise?, so, er, some name I did wrong [said/pronounced wrong]*. And then the kids start[ed] to call me ‘Pele, Pele!’. I said, ‘No! My name is Edson!’. Then I went to school. I fight [got into fights] in the classroom. Then I got two days suspended [got suspended for two days] because I fight [got into a fight] with a boy because he called me Pele. Then the whole school start[ed] to call me Pele. Then I could not change [this]. But [it] was a gift of God [gift from God], because now I love ???. It’s easy to remember, it’s easy to write. It is a name who is staying [which is known] all over the world.

*Pele isn’t really sure how he got his nickname, but one story is that he mispronounced the name of one of his favourite football players ‘Bele’.

Practice your English by leaving a comment on the blog…
Got a question about the English in this text? Leave a question on the blog…

Liverpool Arsenal 1989

Manchester City aren’t the only team to produce end of season excitement…

Difficulty Level: (1)→(2)→3
Important football (soccer) vocabulary is highlighted at the bottom of the page.
Watch the video first without reading the text so you practice your listening skills.

Think about this question when you watch the video for the first time: what factors made this match so exciting?
[afterwards read the text to check your understanding]

Background: It’s May 1989. This is the last match of the league season between Liverpool and Arsenal…

By half-time it was still nil-nil and and George was still thinking there would be chances to come. You know, it’s down to taking them, and, er, you can do this, and that’s what happened.

He said, “it’s all going according to plan, lads. All we need to do is get a goal, you know, whenever. And then, we’ve only got to get one more, so just make sure you keep a clean sheet.

[Television commentary:] Winterburn and Richardson behind it. Adams has made a darting little run in there… and Smith. And Arsenal have scored. The Liverpool players are surrounding the referee, asking him to speak to a linesman.

I’ve spoken to some of the Liverpool lads since; Steve Nicol and Ronnie Whelan, and, um, I always say, “well, what were you appealing about?”, and they say, “ well, we thought it was offside or you didn’t touch it. So, we just thought we’d try our luck, you know”. One of the most frequently asked questions that people ask me is, “did you touch it?”. And I always say, “yeah, I did, I got a good touch. It was just the fact that the, er, the flight of the ball didn’t change all that much. I just helped it on its way. It was quite tense when they surrounded the ref. And the ref went over to the linesman. And, you know, it’s quite intimidating, because you had the likes of Ronnie Whelan balling in their ear and trying to influence them. So, when the ref pointed to the centre circle, that was, you know, a great moment of relief.

[Television commentary:] Ronnie Whelan looking on there… the goal’s been given! And what a game we have now.
Onto Alan Smith. Ablett’s there with him. Merson…Richardson! A chance here… Thomas! …and Grobbalaar was able to grab it.
There the signals… get forward, get forward.

I think the great story from it is when Steve McMahon is putting one finger up, and I can remember that, and I’m sure the lads that played that night knew there was only one minute to go ‘we’ve lost it’. That for the lads… cor, when they scored that goal… I still watch it… I’m disappointed I wasn’t there, but I’m pleased for them lads that were actually ???? .

[Television commentary:] Arsenal come streaming forward now, in surely what will be there last attack. A good ball by Dixon, finding Smith, for Thomas, charging through the midfield! Thomas! It’s up for grabs now!!! Thomas!! Right at the end! An unbelievable climax to the league season!

to keep a clean sheet: a team keeps a clean sheet in a match when the other team doesn’t score any goals.
to appeal to the referee: to ‘ask’ the referee to make a decision, e.g. to give your team a penalty or free kick (here, to ask the referee NOT to give a goal for Arsenal)