Following our recent piece on the Panenka penalty, we take a look at other players who have given their names to footballing phenomena.


1. Papinade (French)

  • A spectacular, airborne volley

To most countries, what Luis Suarez did against Arsenal recently was just a volley. A magnificent ludicrous volley, but a volley nevertheless. To French viewers, this was a papinade. Named after Jean-Pierre Papin, who was fond of this kind of gravity-baiting brilliance, a papinade is a volley struck from an unusual angle or with the body in an unusual position.

The French language takes well to signature moves, although the notoriety is not always welcome. Just ask our next player-whose-name-became-a-footballing-thing…

2. Arconada (French)

  • (Of a goalkeeper) to let an easy shot slip under your body

In the final of Euro ’84, Spanish keeper Luis Arconada let a Michel Platini free-kick squirm under his body. In doing so, he handed the tournament to host nation France, before a watching audience of millions.

There’s no rhyme or reason as to how a signature move enters wider use, but circumstance and mass media certainly play their part.  So although the Spaniard was a fine keeper, the prominence of his mistake meant that faire une arconada (“to do an Arconada”) would quickly become a part of the football lexicon in France.

3. Zlatanera (Swedish)

  • To beast your opponent

The Swedish Language Council included zlatanera in the dictionary in 2012, after the verb zlataner was coined by a satirical French TV show.

Of course, there’s a distance between a word being in the dictionary and it being in everyday use but, of the lofty names on this list, only one has received sanction from on high. The man himself would expect nothing less.

4. Cruyff turn (English)

Perhaps the English game is short of pioneers, or perhaps our language is just that flexible and willing to absorb foreign influence. Either way, in England we’re happy to take our signature moves from non-English players.

So ask any English football fan what a Cruyff turn is, and they’ll leave you in no doubt. It’s a glorious, swerving slice of footballing history and, as we all know, it was invented by Johan Cruyff.

Except that, to many cultures, it wasn’t. Many languages don’t feel the need to name this action at all. Cruyff did it wonderfully and memorably, of course, but surprisingly (for this writer, at least) even the Netherlands don’t associate the move with the man, calling it by the typically literal kappen achter het standbeen (“turning a defender by dragging the ball behind the supporting leg”).


The best of the rest

Not moves as such, but a couple of other parts of the game that took their names from players.

  • Fritz-Walter-Wetter (German)
  • Bad weather during a game

Like the Dutch, the Germans aren’t big on the kind of navel-gazing required for signature moves.  They don’t mind the odd comparison, though:  a striker who is good in the air evokes “header monster” (Kopfballungeheuer) Horst Hrubesch, while a swerving cross is forever associated with Manfred Kaltz and his’ “banana cross” (Bananenflanke).

But when a game takes place in driving rain, the Germans break their own rule and call it Fritz-Walter-Wetter (“Fritz Walter weather”). This is in memory of 1954 World Cup winning captain Fritz Walter, who led his country to victory on a final day when it was famously raining its arse off.

  • Pichichi (Spanish)
  • The award for top scorer in La Liga

Rafael Moreno Aranzadi was known as Pichichi (Pitxitxi in Basque), which roughly translates as “skinny little duck”. He earned the nickname because of his slight frame, which didn’t stop him from scoring a string of cup final goals for Atletic Bilbao during the 1910s and 20s, before his life was tragically cut short by typhus.

In 1953, Marca named their top-scorer trophy in his honour. The Pichichi is not actually officially recognised by the league, but such is the clout of Marca and the history of the trophy that it remains highly sought after today.