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Glossary: D-F

View a glossary of related terms. This page features terms beginning with the letters D-F.

Dead ball
This situation arises when the ball is not ‘in play’, ie play has been stopped, either by the ball going out of the boundaries of the pitch or because the referee has called a halt to the match. When play restarts – either with a free-kick, or goal-kick, or corner, the ball is ‘dead’ before the match recommences.

This is the part of the team whose foremost objective is to stop the opponents’ attacking players from setting up and scoring goals. They are the last line of protection for the goalkeeper. A defence can comprise of three, four or even five players, depending on the formation.

A defender is a player who plays in the defence. For specific positions, see ‘central defender’ and ‘full-back’.


A derby match is generally one played between two teams in the same region, so in the Barclays Premier League, for example, Manchester United v Manchester City and Liverpool v Everton are considered derbies. The fixture can also be called a ‘local derby’. The term ‘derby’ is also sometimes used to describe historical, traditional, national rivalries in a country, for example Real Madrid v Barcelona in Spain.

The ‘diamond formation’ is the set-up of a team’s midfield in the shape of a diamond, where one player will start from a deeper, central position on the field, two will play slightly wider and further forward, and one will be at the top of the diamond, still further forward and in a central position. This formation is the middle part of what is either described as essentially being 4-4-2, or 4-1-2-1-2.

Direct free-kick
When a free-kick is given by the referee for an infringement, it will either be ‘direct’ or ‘indirect’. In the instance of direct, the team taking the free-kick are able to score a goal immediately, without the ball touching another player. The opposition are not allowed to encroach a 10-yard radius around the ball when the free-kick is being taken. See also: ‘indirect free-kick’.


A ‘disallowed goal’ is the term used to describe what happens when the attacking team puts the ball in the opposition’s net, but, for whatever reason, the goal does not stand. This generally happens either because of an offside decision, or if a foul has been committed in the process.

The word used to describe the behaviour of teams and their players. A team suffering from ‘ill-discipline’ may have been noted for their poor ‘disciplinary record’, which usually manifests itself in yellow and red cards. Sometimes managers say they will ‘discipline’ players if they believe they have stepped out of line.


When players talk back to officials, in particular the referee. A player can be shown a yellow card for dissent, and on occasion even a red card, should the dissent offence be deemed serious enough. As well as through language, acts like throwing the ball away are also regarded as dissent.

A dive in football is an attempt by a player to win a free-kick from the referee when he has not been fouled by an opposition player. Some dives occur when there is clearly no contact, and some simply exaggerate any contact there was in an attempt to deceive the referee. As football is such a high-paced sport, it can be very difficult to tell whether a player has dived or not. If a player is ajudged to have dived to gain advantage, the referee is entitled to show him a yellow card.

This is another name for ‘league’, so, the Barclays Premier League  is the top division in the English football pyramid. Below the Barclays Premier League  is the Football League, which is made up of three more divisions – the Championship, League One and League Two.


In many countries, the ‘Double’ is the term used to refer to a team that has won their domestic league as well as the major national cup competition. In England, this would mean a team winning the Barclays Premier League  and FA Cup in the same season, which Chelsea did in 2008-09 – they ‘won the Double’. The term ‘Double’ can also be used for a team which has beaten another team both home and away in one season – ie, Team A have done the double over Team B.

This is what it is called when the scores are level at the end of a match and neither side has managed to win. In the Barclays Premier League, teams earn one point for a draw. A ‘draw’ in a cup sense is the random process that occurs before every round when teams are picked to face each other. So, the draw for the fifth round of the FA Cup, for example, would see 16 teams pitted against one another – the team drawn first gets to play at home, and the team drawn second will be away.

Dressing room
These are the two rooms inside the stadium where the players and staff of each team go before the match to put their kit on and prepare, at half-time for refreshments and a teamtalk from the manager, and after the match to shower and change.

This is a technique in football which is generally attributed to attacking players, and it is a difficult skill to execute in a match. Dribbling involves keeping possession of the ball while running and trying to go past players on the opposition team, keeping the ball under close control and twisting and turning so your opponents cannot dispossess you.

Drop ball
A ‘drop ball’ is used to restart the match with no advantage to either side – so the match may have been stopped because of serious injury, or a fan running on to the pitch, or the ball went flat and lost its air. The referee drops the ball in between two players, one from each side, and they must wait for the ball to touch the ground before they are allowed to kick it.

A ‘dummy’ is an effective way of fooling your opponent into thinking you are going to do something and then not do it. So, a striker can look like he is going to shoot, dummy the ball, wait for the defender to go one way and then take the ball the other way and shoot. Or, a player can dummy the ball, as in look like he is about to hit it but leave it completely alone, if he thinks there is another player behind him that can shoot instead. Also used for free-kick situations when one player looks like he is going to take it only to run over the ball and allow someone else to kick the ball instead.

When a team is losing and they score a goal to level the match, this is called an ‘equaliser’. Also known as a ‘leveller’.

Exhibition matches
See ‘Friendly matches’

This is reserved for cup competitions, so would not occur in the Premier League.  Extra-time is a period played at the end of a match when two teams are still level after 90 minutes. Extra-time consists of 30 minutes – split into two 15-minute periods with both teams changing halves - and if one of the teams is still not winning at the end, the winner is usually decided by a ‘penalty shootout’.

Shortened form of "Football Association". The Football Association is the governing body of football in England and is based at Wembley Stadium, London. The FA is responsible for overseeing all aspects of both professional and amateur football in England and runs England teams of every age, level and gender as well as the FA Cup.

FA Cup
The FA Cup – known in full as The Football Association Challenge Cup – is the oldest cup competition played in the world, having been founded in 1871. There are 14 rounds of the FA Cup, with six qualifying rounds, six proper rounds and then the semi-finals and the final, which takes place at Wembley Stadium, London, in May. Amateur teams from all over England take part in qualifying (which begins in August), with Football League teams from League One and League Two entering at the First Round proper stage and then teams from the Barclays Premier League and the Championship entering in the Third Round.

Abbreviation of ‘Football Club’, which many teams in England have in their full name, for example LFC – Liverpool Football Club.

Fifa (full title, in French, is Federation Internationale de Football Association) is the governing body of world football and is responsible for all the major international tournaments, such as the Fifa World Cup. It was formed in 1904, is made up of 208 national associations and has its headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland.

Fairs Cup
The Fairs Cup – or Inter-Cities Fairs Cup to give it its full title – was a European football competition played between 1955 and 1971 among European football clubs and was designed to promote international trade fairs. In 1971, it was replaced by the UEFA Cup, which is now called the Uefa Europa League.

Another term given to the ‘supporters’ of a football club. Fans often buy their club’s merchandise, go to matches, and they are considered sometimes to be a ‘12th man’, such is the importance placed on their presence at some grounds.

Far post
Also known as the ‘back stick’, this is the phrase attributed to the upright furthest away from where the player with the ball is. A player may have the ball on the right-hand side of the pitch and his team-mate will call out ‘far post’ or ‘back stick’ in order to deliver the ball to the far side of the goal area – the left-hand side in this instance.

50:50 (fifty-fifty)
A tackle or aerial challenge between two players in which both players appear to have an equal chance of getting to the ball first is called a ’50:50’. Also, before a match, a player who may have an injury can be rated 50:50 to be able to play – so he has a 50% chance of being ready in time.  

Final whistle
This is the referee signalling the end of the match.

First half
Football matches are split into two halves of 45 minutes each – the first half and the second half. When the first half is over, teams retreat to their dressing-room for a 15-minute interval.

First leg

This phrase is not needed in the Barclays Premier League, but instead reserved for knockout cup competitions which are played over two matches – home and away – as is the case in the UEFA Champions League. These two matches are also known as ‘legs’.

This can describe a cross or a shot that is hit instinctively ‘first-time’ by the player in question. So, a pass may come in from the right, and the striker hits his shot ‘first-time’, without taking a touch to control the ball.


This is another name for a match. Also, a player can be described as ‘a fixture’ in a team, meaning he is considered to have a regular place in that team.

Fixture list
This is the list of matches to be played, which can either appear in competition form (a list of Barclays Premier League fixtures) or by club (Team A’s fixtures). A highlight of the summer months, when there is no competitive domestic football, is when the fixture list for the new season is published mid-June.

There are flags in the four corners of the pitch, known as ‘corner flags’, but the assistant referees (formerly known as linesmen), who run down the sides of the pitch helping the referee, also carry flags so they can alert the referee to any infringement they have spotted. This can be a foul, but is usually reserved for offside decisions, when an attacking player is ahead of the last defender.

These are high-intensity artificial lights that tower above stands and shine down on to the illuminated pitch, enabling football matches to be played at night. The first official match in England to be played under floodlights was in October 1951, and now every club in England has them.

Football League
This is the league competition featuring professional clubs from England and Wales that operates below the Barclays Premier League and encompasses three leagues or divisions – the Championship, League One and League Two. It used to include the top four divisions of English football, until the top 20 clubs split away to form the Premier League in 1992.

Football League Cup
This is currently called the Carling Cup and was established in 1960 as the secondary domestic cup competition behind the FA Cup. It is open to all Football League and Barclays Premier League Clubs and the winner is eligible to participate in the Uefa Europa League.

Football League Trophy

This is a domestic cup competition open only to clubs from League One and League Two and is currently also known as the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.

Footballer of the Year
Also called the Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year, this is an annual award given to the player adjudged to have had the best season in English football. There is a vote among member of the FWA, which comprises around 400 football journalists in England, and an awards ceremony in April.


The structure of a team’s positions and its players on the pitch is generally described as its ‘formation’. A basic formation would be described as 4-4-2 – you do not count the goalkeeper, so that would be four defenders, four midfielders and two strikers. Formations have evolved hugely over the last century and continue to do so.

A player whose main role in the team is an attacking one can be called a ‘forward’ or an ‘attacker’. The forward position can comprise of attacking midfielders and wingers, though usually out-and-out attackers are called ‘strikers’. A forward must try to set up and score goals – though they usually have some defensive duties to take care of too.

Forward line
The forward line comprises those players at the attacking end of the pitch for a team. It could be one striker on his own, or two strikers, or two strikers and two wingers.

A foul is an unfair act committed by a player which contravenes Law 12 in the Laws of the Match. These are punishable by direct and indirect free-kicks, and if the referee determines the foul serious enough, yellow and red cards too.

Foul throw
Unless a player takes a ‘throw-in’ with both hands, from behind and over his own head and with both feet on the ground, it is deemed to be a ‘foul throw’, and the referee will penalise the player’s team by awarding a throw-in to the other side.

Fourth official
The fourth official’s duties are all off the field of play – he/she is there to assist the referee with administrative functions, ensuring substitutions are conducted properly, notifying the crowd and players via an electronic board how many minutes of ‘injury time’ are to be played at the end of each half, and to act as the contact point between the referee and the non-playing participants, ie members of the groundstaff, or coaching staff. The fourth official can also replace either the referee or assistant referees in the event they become injured/ill.

A free-kick is used to restart play after it has been stopped by the referee. See also ‘direct free-kick’ and ‘indirect free-kick’.

Friendly matches
These are usually one-off, non-competitive matches. At club level, teams play friendlies before the season starts (pre-season) to practice for the new campaign, while at international level, these are fixtures organised by countries to prepare for qualifying matches or for major tournaments. Sometimes called ‘exhibition’ matches, they are the opposite of ‘competitive’ matches.

Frozen pitch
This is one of the possible reasons for a ‘postponement’ or even an ‘abandonment’, ie a match that is not able to be completed. If a pitch becomes covered in snow or ice it can be considered dangerous for the players,and, if their safety is at risk, the referee will either not allow the match to be played or will stop it before the regulation 90 minutes.


This is a position in the defence of a team, in a wide position. A football team will usually have four defenders, which will consist of two ‘central defenders’, one left-back, who plays down the left-hand side, and one right-back, who is on the other ‘flank’. Their principal task is to stop the forward or winger playing for the opposition team getting past them, but they can also be useful in an attacking sense too.

The end of the match, signified by the referee’s whistle.

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