Gol gol gol

This post is going to be all about the goal. The goal area, goalie, net, posts, and, well, goals. It’s always important to have goals in life, and it’s especially important to have goals in a soccer game, seeing as they’re kind of the point. So, let’s give that region of the soccer field some love.

Tim Howard, American goalie

Tim Howard, American goalie

A goalie or goalkeeper is usually an arquero or a portero. Guardameta is also used with semi-regularity. Here in Colombia, I mostly hear arquero. Arquero seems to be the norm in most of South America; portero is more common in Spain and Mexico. Central America? The Caribbean? Equatorial Guinea? I don’t know. Words that also exist but that aren’t nearly as common include guardavallas, guardapalos, cuidapalos, golero, cancerbero, and meta. Cancerbero has nothing to do with cancer; it’s actually the combination of can– (dog, as in canine) + Cerbero (Cerberus, the mythological 3-headed hellhound that guards the entrance to the underworld). I like to imagine goalies giving themselves that pep talk as they step into position: I am Cerberus; I will guard this space like 3-headed ferocious dog guarding the gates of Hades; if anyone tries to enter I’ll bite their freaking head off! If Luis Suárez was a goalie, maybe he could have used this as his defense last week. Hey, I thought I was Cerberus! You guys don’t want me to bite, maybe you should think twice before you call me a 3-headed fanged beast. Except he’s a forward, so yeah. No excuses.


Those are nine ways of saying goalie, but what do you call the actual goal area? Well, you can find the many ways in the words above. The goal can be the arco, arquería, puerta, portería, meta, valla, los tres palos, or the casamata. Portería is what I hear most.

The posts or bars? I mostly know them as the palos, but they can also be called los postes or la madera. The horizontal crossbar can be called the travesaño, larguero, or horizontal (with the vertical bars being verticales).

Do you know how to say to bounce off something? It’s rebotar en algo. So, if the ball bounces off the posts, you say rebotó en los palos. Whenever this happens, there is sure to be cursing on one side and sighs of relief on the other.

Chile's Mauricio Pinilla tattooed his near-goal rebote on his back

Chile’s Mauricio Pinilla tattooed his near-goal rebote on his back

The net is la red, sometimes la malla. 

To score a goal is marcar un gol. You can also say hacer un gol, meter un gol, or anotar un gol. If you’re a journalist, you might write golear, though this doesn’t mean to score an individual goal per se, but rather for a team to score a lot of goals, for them to win handily. Colombia goleó a Brasil 4 a 1. Look for this one tonight!!! (This is actually the score I’m betting on for my pollasports bet.)

And how about when a goalie blocks a goal or performs a save? The most common and colloquial ways of saying this seem to be tapar, parar, and atajar un gol. Atajar was a brand new one for me, but I’ve heard it several times lately; WordReference says to stop, intercept; to catch, catch in flight. ¡Qué atajada! What a save! Or, ¡Qué parada! Feel free to also bandy about verbs like detenerimpedir, evitar, rechazarbloquear, and blocar. Apparently, salvar un gol is used in some countries, but rejected in others as an overly literal translation from English. Despejar would be like to clear the ball, getting it the heck out of there by whatever means necessary.

David Ospina arquero goalie world cup colombia

David Ospina, arquero colombiano

Any more goal vocab? Oh, I just thought of one. In journalism, goals are often referred to as tantos. Supplement me, correct me, pillory me, love me in the comments. And tune in tomorrow at 4 p.m. U.S. Eastern time to watch the Colombia-Brazil game and cheer us on! It’s going to be epic, and we need your support! ¡Vamos Colombia!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Rodney’s latest post has lots of soccer vocab as well, so be sure to check it out. I didn’t know the Mexican phrase, ¿Quién es tu gallo? Pues, ¡mi gallo es Colombia! ¿Quién lo iba a pensar?


14 responses to “Gol gol gol

  1. Nice post! You covered more than a few things I was wondering about.


  2. That was pretty comprehensive. I would just add that the net is also “la malla.” And in terms of the “gol” itself, there is the famous “gol olímpico,” which is scored directly from a corner kick (goes directly into the net). I don’t know the story behind the name but I wanted to bring it up because “olimpico” is sometimes used in common parlance (dropping the gol part), meaning that you were somehow tricked. It’s not a good thing when somebody says that “se lo hicieron olímpico” or something like that. I can’t think of a good example now but I’m sure you can ask somebody there. The context is that if somebody “te mete un gol,” they got you, and if it is olímpico that’s worse. Of course, you could have brought it onto yourself, in which case te hiciste un autogol.


    • Hey, right on about la malla. I learned gol olímpico a few days ago when I wondered aloud if anyone had ever scored a goal from a corner kick, and I was then informed of what that’s called. Actually, I saw a video the other day of a then 13-year-old James Rodriguez who scored an Olympic goal. I can’t find the video I saw, where the angle was better, but you can still see it here. Though you don’t see his adorable little face afterward as he runs with pure glee :)

      The name dates back to 1924: http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gol_ol%C3%ADmpico

      Didn’t know about olímpico! And, no, who could I ask here, silly? You’re my only source!!! ;)

      Interesting, because mundial means really good. Like, pasarla mundial.

      Didn’t even think of autogol.

      I meant to also include a picture of Faryd Mondragón, but I had too many pictures already and space was at a premium.


  3. fascinating re: valla, have definitely never heard that before. Chile trivia: the tall barriers used to control crowds and keep people in or out of places in Chile are called “vallas papales” from when the Pope came to visit, I’ve been told (here’s an example of its use, in which you can also see the vallas papales, if you are so inclined: http://www.lasegunda.com/Noticias/Nacional/2014/05/936755/Conductor-del-furgon-que-choco-valla-papal-en-Valparaiso-quedo-en-libertad) Also what’s the relationship between atajar and atajo, I wonder? (for those following along, an atajo is a shortcut). When you first said “atajar,” I thought, I, that makes sense, like “to jam,” but that is atascar. Nada que ver!

    Another fun read, as always!


    • Though I’m sure it has many more uses, the most common use of valla that I hear in Colombia is billboard. Is it used that way in Chile, too? Also, looking this up, I learned that billboard is called a hoarding in the UK??? The hell? What a hideous word! (Sorry to any UK readers.) Thanks for the picture- couldn’t visualize what you were talking about! How interesting that the Pope left his mark like that!

      Yeah, I only knew atajar as associated with atajo. Atajar: to stem, stop, contain, check; divide, partition; parry, hold back; cut short, interrupt; call a halt to, put a stop to- you get the idea. Maybe because you stop your route short? There you are, going your long, leisurely way from point A to point B, and then you take a shortcut, and BAM! That original route is stopped in its tracks :p

      Hey, WordReference also says that in the Cono Sur, atajarse can mean to keep one’s temper, to control o.s.


    • Callas are also the hurdles used in a track event, like the 110 metros vallas. This meaning is related to the barriers used by the police, which here look like the barriers used in the 3000 meter steeplechase, and the obstacles in the equestrian competition. The 3000 steeplechase is called 3000 metros obstaculos.


  4. There is such a variety of vocabulary in soccer! There’s a ton of variation between Latin America and Spain as well, even down to what the field is called – el campo or la cancha?

    Re: scoring, “golear” is usually “to score a lot of goals”, “to win heavily”, rather than just “to score a goal”, and it’s usually used with a team, not an individual. For instance, there were a ton of headlines last week along the lines of: “Colombia goleó a Japón 4 a 1”. I don’t think I’ve seen it with just one person scoring goals, although that’s not to say it’s not ever used that way.

    For one person scoring multiple goals, two goals (a brace) is “un doblete”, while three goals (a hat trick) is “un triplete”, although “hat trick” is also used.


    • Hey, thanks for the comment! Your blog is great, and I feel humbled to even receive your comment. I know very little about soccer, and I don’t try to hide that fact! So, thanks for your graciousness and the tips.

      I had a suspicion that golear’s usage was different, so thanks for sketching out the nuances for us. And doblete and triplete- good to know!


  5. Re “gol olimipico” you may be interested to know that so far the only time that this has happened during a World Cup game was in a match involving Colombia (against Soviet Union) in 1966 when a Colombian player scored in this manner and his team eventually drew 4-4 even though a few minutes earlier they were losing 1-4.
    Re “golear”, here football journalists often use a Spanish-sounding word “goleador” either to siginfy a top scorer of e.g. a league or simply someone who scores a lot of goals.
    And I confirm “hoarding” as a British English word.


    • Awesome! Wow, 4-4.

      Goleador, thanks.

      And hoarding is hideous! Not that billboard is poetry, but still.


    • Yes, and they were talking about that 4-4in Colombia for the next quarter century, because the Colombian team was always so mediocre that there was no other positive thing to mention. The Soviet letters, which look like the Latin characters CCCP, where said to mean “Con Colombia Casi Perdemos.” :) Of course, they should be read SSSR.


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