Coup du sombrero

Now I’m not one to boast: I’m mentioning my latest footballing triumph purely for a linguistic purpose (and the World Cup is on, after all). I did a superb "coup du sombrero" last Wednesday (not just on anyone! On Beth, who I’ve played with for 12 years and who knows all my two tricks!). This is a rather difficult manoeuvre during which a player lobs the ball over their opponent to go past them. If you visualise what the ball does, you’ll see that if performed well, it (sort of) forms the outline of a sombrero over the opponent. Hence "coup du sombrero", or sombrero trick. This video of a "sombrero trick" performed by Denilson will give you a better idea of what it looks like. Impossible to find an equivalent in English, can someone confirm that it doesn’t exist?



And another one, spotted in today’s Guardian: Richard Williams mentions Zidane’s "patented roulette"…



Delboy, you’re a star! The article you link to, about football-related terms in different languages with no direct equivalent in English, is a little gem. I’ve taken the liberty to copy the French bit underneath, as newspaper articles sometimes get lost in cyberspace after a while, and it would be a shame in this case.

Aile de Pigeon ("pigeon’s wing") – whereby a player raises the lower half of his leg behind him to flick the ball forwards with his heel (eg Zlatan Ibrahimovich’s goal for Sweden against Italy in Euro 2004). Actually, I would disagree with this description. In my mind, an aile de pigeon is performed by raising your leg sideways and using the outside of your foot to flick the ball up.

Le Foulard ("scarf") – passing or crossing by bringing one leg behind the other so that legs are crossed (as often tried by Messrs Ronaldo and Cole).

Lanterne rouge ("red lantern") – the team at the bottom of the league.

Le grand pont ("big bridge") – knocking the ball to one side of an opponent and dashing around the other side to collect it.

Le petit pont ("little bridge") – nutmeg.

La roulette – the Marseille turn, double drag-back, Zidane turn, Maradona turn, Rocastle 360, etc.

Le saut de grenouille ("frog’s jump") – clasping the ball between both feet and jumping over the outstretched leg of an opponent.

I’ll add another one, mentioned by Abie, on the French side: la bicyclette (the bicycle) – overhead kick.



I wrote to the person in charge of the glossary of football terms at the Guardian to contribute “bicyclette”, and in his reply, he said he agreed that his description of aile de pigeon wasn’t entirely accurate. The full (and very complete, apparently, in lots of languages) glossary is being prepared, I’ll let you know when it’s online.

By | 2016-10-18T15:50:24+00:00 July 4th, 2006|Idioms|4 Comments

About the Author:

I am Céline Graciet, a freelance English to French translator. Since 2003 I’ve been writing on all sorts of areas linked to translation and the life of a translator.


  1. Angela July 4, 2006 at 6:10 pm

    Isnt’t this what Zidane did in the quarter final against Ronaldo? So now we know who taught him that trick!!

  2. DelBoy July 6, 2006 at 8:38 pm

    The follwing perfectly adheres to this topic:,,1725658,00.html

  3. Lesley July 7, 2006 at 3:50 pm

    The commentators on TF1 the other night had a long conversation about the term “nutmeg”. They seemed to think there was no equivalent in French and had absolutely no idea of the non-football meaning of nutmeg. You’d think they’d gen up on that sort of thing before sharing their lack of knowledge with millions of viewers (many of whom probably rushed off to look the word up in a dictionary).

  4. Paul July 8, 2006 at 11:24 am

    Moi je dirais ‘the bicycle kick’ plutôt que ‘the bicycle’…

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