An Unofficial guide to understanding street football slang in Nigeria

Football is undoubtedly the most popular sport in Nigeria. It is a usual sight to see young boys – and sometimes, girls – in all parts of the country take advantage of any open space to actively participate in the sport and equally, gather together to watch their favorite team play.

Growing up for any young boy in Nigeria is not complete if he doesn’t have a tale or two to tell about his many escapades on the beautiful game. In the tale lies certain slangs formed out of naivety and sometimes, sheer ignorance.

Here are some of the most absurd and downright funny ones.


Imagine a football game between two opposing streets in a place like say Lagos and unluckily, a player of one of the teams divert the ball into his own net, what happens next? The shout of ESCOBAR!!!! rents the air. Some would even say X – OVER.

To many of us, Escobar simply means when a player – whether knowingly or unknowingly – score in his own post. It took several years before it was realized that Escobar is actually the name of a Colombian and that the appropriate term to use is own goal.

Wondering why Escobar became so popular in Nigeria and why he is synonymous with players scoring in their own post? Well, Andres Escobar is a Colombian footballer that scored an own goal in a world cup between Colombia and USA in 1994. His own goal led to his team’s defeat and his eventual death as he was shot dead over the incident.

What a foul was

Still hold on to that imagination of that game between two streets in Lagos and this time, picture a player on either side of the team handling the ball with his hand, what do you hear?? FOWL!! No, they are not referring to a bird and in fact, they haven’t seen any.

A foul – they meant to say – is widely believed as when a player handles the ball with his hand. And guess the punishment? A penalty kick regardless of where the supposed fouloccurred.

Now we know that the proper term is ‘handball’ and the proper consequence depending on where it took place and how.

The role of the referee

In games like that, referees have very few and well defined roles. Some of them includes; determine whether the ball truly went in or not, deciding on which side gets to pass the ball first and pick a goal post, and finally decide on if the ball went out of play or the teams can PLAY ON!

When the ball is in play, the referee takes a back seat. It is not his business if a player is being kicked or shoved. Football is a survival test and you have to be strong to participate. A referee that tries to go out of his line would be given a bloody nose and swiftly replaced by any available person.

You do not need too much training to officiate a game because really, you don’t have to do much.

Who is a lastman?

Football evolved quickly on the streets and referees got more added roles, and then a ‘Lastman’ was introduced. Wondering who a ‘lastman’ is? Well, he is the one charged with the responsibility of ensuring that no player gets an undue advantage by playing from the offside position and also determining whether the ball is out of play or not.

You are laughing, right? Who was called a ‘lastman’ then is actually the ‘linesman’.

Why India doesn’t participate in any football tournament

Any young man that grew up with a father or an uncle interested in sports must have been told the story of how India was banned from participating in any football event.

They must have been briefed on how Nigeria won a game against India by scoring a single goal despite conceding 99. In case you didn’t get the gist, we’ll help you – According to them uncles, Nigeria faced India in a World Cup game and went through hell. India conjured some sort of magic and turned the ball into all manner of things ranging from dangerous animals like lion and snakes to other scary objects.

The officials saw what was going on and decided that if Nigeria could manage to get a goal, they would be declared the winner of the game. At the closing minutes of the game, the Indians turned the ball into a stone and Nigeria’s Sam Okwaraji bravely kicked it into the net. His goal won Nigeria the game but cost Sam his life.

Subsequently, India was banned from participating in any football tournament.

Sorry to break your hearts but the story is not true. The match never took place and Sam Okwaraji died of heart related problems in a World Cup qualifier match against Angola.