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When German politicians said "Ja!" and allowed the Bundesliga to become Europe's first major league to return to action after the COVID-19 shutdown, there was one unavoidable stipulation: matches must take place in empty stadiums, without supporters. Fortunately, the wonderful German language already had a word for that: Geisterspiele which means "ghost games" and is considerably more concise than the official German equivalent of "behind closed doors" - the equally haunting Unter Ausschluss der Öffentlichkeit  (under exclusion of the public).

So, in addition to "ghost games", what other useful expressions and confusing Anglicisms do you need to know when we all go in search of the 'Bier, Bratwurst and Fußball' trinity again? Here's our glossary.



50+1 RULE - League Association rules stipulate that members of all German professional clubs must retain at least a 50% plus one share, thus preventing any single entity taking control. Read more about the 50+1 Rule here.


ABSEITS - Offside


ABSTAUBERTOR - Poacher's goal


ABSTIEG - Relegation


ABSTIEGSZONE - Relegation zone


ABWEHR - Defence




ACHTER - A player who plays the 'No. 8' role in midfield, a box-to-box player, adept in both attack and defence


DIE ADLER - The Eagles: not a reference to the band but to the majestic bird of prey that adorns Eintracht Frankfurt's shirt


DIE ALTE DAME - Nickname for Hertha Berlin, literally 'the Old Lady'

ANGRIFF - Attack


ANGSTGEGNER - Bogey team




AUFSTIEG - Promotion




BADEN-WÜRTTEMBERG DERBY - A derby game between clubs from the German federal state of Baden-Württemberg, such as SC Freiburg, TSG 1899 Hoffenheim or Karlsruher SC (Baden) and VfB Stuttgart or Aalen (Württemberg)


BALLBESITZ - Possession


BANANENFLANKE - Curler, in-/ outswinger (cross); Banana ball


BANK - Substitutes' bench




BETZENBERG/BETZE - Popular name for 1.FC Kaiserslautern's Fritz-Walter-Stadion, so called due to its location on the Betzenberg Hill


BÖKELBERGSTADION - The former home of Borussia Mönchengladbach, until the Foals moved into the Borussia-Park at the beginning of the 2004-05 season


BORUSSIA The Latin name for Prussia. Dortmund and Mönchengladbach share the name, with both of them located in what was once the Prussian Empire, which spanned northern Germany at its height


DIE BREISGAUER - Belonging to the Breisgau region, encompassing part of the Black Forest... SC Freiburg


MIT BREITER BRUST - Literally 'with a big chest', meaning: with confidence


BRUCHWEG BOYS - Collective nickname given to then-1.FSV Mainz 05 players Lewis Holtby, Andre Schürrle and Adam Sazali, who celebrated as if they were in a rock band when they scored during the 2010-11 season. Bruchweg was the name of Mainz's former stadium


BUNDESTRAINER - The title given to the coach of the German national team, currently Hansi Flick


BVB - Abbreviation commonly used to refer to Borussia Dortmund. The initials stand for Ballspiel-Verein Borussia, or Borussia Ball-Sports club


CANNSTATTER KURVE - The home end at VfB Stuttgart's Mercedes-Benz Arena

CAPO -  the leader of the fans during a game. Both sets of fans, home and away, will have a Capo, and during a game he can be recognised as the person standing in front of the loudest section of fans, occasionally on a raised platform, most times equipped with a megaphone, loudspeaker or microphone so that his voice can be projected easily. He will remain there for the game’s duration giving instructions to supporters. The Capo is unequivocally a very highly respected fan who has been part of the Ultra scene for years and has proven himself (or herself, but that’s very rare – support the Female Ultras Movement!) by whatever means relevant. Ultimately, he has earned the title ‘Capo’.


COACHINGZONE - Technical area


DAHOAM - Often used in the phrase 'Finale Dahoam' - literally 'home final', which refers to FC Bayern München's ill-fated 2012 UEFA Champions League final on home turf against Chelsea


DAUERKARTE - Season ticket

DER CLUB - A succinct alternative for 1. FC Nürnberg

DFB - Deutscher Fußball-Bund (German FA)

DFL - Deutscher Fußball Liga (German Football League)


DINOS - Nickname for Hamburger SV - the 'dinosaurs' - referring to the club's status as the only side in Germany to have played exclusively in the Bundesliga since its inception before finally being relegated in 2018


DOPPELPACK - Brace (scored two goals)


DOPPELPASS - One-Two, give and go


DREIERPACK - Hat-trick


DRIBBELN - Dribble


DRITTE LIGA - Informal name for 3.LigaGermany's third division


DRÜCKEN SIE DIE DAUMEN! - Keep your fingers crossed!


ECKE/ECKBALL - Corner kick


ECKFAHNE - Corner flag


EHRENTREFFER - Literally an 'honour goal', but what we'd know in English as a consolation goal


EIGENTOR - Own goal


EINTRACHT - Frankfurt and Braunschweig’s prefix means 'harmony'. Whether the teams enjoy as much on the pitch is another matter


EINWURF- Throw-in


ELFMETER - Penalty


ELFMETERPUNKT - Penalty spot




ENDSTAND - Final score


ENGLISCHE WOCHE - Literally meaning 'English week', referring to a busy period of matches where teams have a midweek fixture, as is the norm in English football


ERÖFFNUNGSSPIEL - The inaugural match of the new Bundesliga season, contested between the reigning champions and one of the other 17 teams and, since the 2002-03 season, played on a Friday evening




ERZRIVALE - Arch rivals, for example Dortmund and Bayern


FAHNE - Flag, Banner


FALLRÜCKZIEHER - Bicycle kick, scissors kick (NB: A Fallrückzieher is an acrobatic goal shot in which a player flips and kicks the ball backward over his own head)


FÄUSTEN - To punch (the ball)


FECHTEN - To parry (the ball)


FELD - Field, pitch

- Cross, centre (into the penalty area)


FLUGKOPFBALL - Diving header


FREISTOß - Free-kick


FUßBALL - Football


FUßBALLSCHUH - Football boot


FUßBALLSTADION - Football stadium




GEGENPRESSING - A high-pressing style of football to regain possession pioneered by Ralf Rangnick at FC Schalke 04 and Jürgen Klopp at Borussia Dortmund


GEGNER - Opponent

GEISTERSPIEL - Literally meaning a ghost game, a 'Geisterspiel' (plural: 'Geisterspiele') is an informal term for a football match played without supporters in the stadium

GELBE KARTEYellow card


GESPERRT- Suspended


DIE GRÜN-WEIßEN - If it's green and white, it's probably the men from the Weser: Werder Bremen


GELSENKIRCHEN - The industrial city in North Rhine-Westphalia from which FC. Schalke 04 hail


GRÄTSCHE - Sliding tackle


DIE GELBE WAND - Borussia Dortmund's iconic South Stand, literally 'The Yellow Wall'




HALBFINALE - Semi-final


HALBZEIT - Half-time


HEIM - Home


HERBSMEISTER - The mid-season leaders - the 'Autumn Champions', the team leading the Bundesliga table after 17 games when the winter break commences. The identity of the Herbstmeister can sometimes give an indication as to who could win the league in May, such as Bayern München between 2012-13 and 2017-18. Although it can also give false hope - just ask Borussia Dortmund last season

HEXENKESSEL - 'Witches cauldron', and used as a term to describe an intimidating stadium atmosphere


HINRUNDE - The first half of the Bundesliga season, Matchdays 1-17


HINSPIEL - The first game of a two-legged tie. Usually used when speaking of knock-out competitions but can also describe league encounters


HSV - Abbreviation commonly used to refer to Hamburger SV, standing for Hamburger Sport-Verein, or Hamburg Sports Club


HUMBA - Post-match celebration involving both the players and fans. Traditionally, the key player in a victory will cajole the crowd with a megaphone, while the rest of the team join hands and wave in time with the supporters




JOKER - A substitute who comes on and scores


KAISER - 'The Emperor' (Nickname for Franz Beckenbauer, Kaiser Franz)

KICKER - Football player

KONTER - Counterattack


LEITWOLF - 'Lead wolf', a player who inspires the team

LIBERO - Sweeper



MANNDECKUNG - Man-marking




MAUER - Defensive wall


MEISTERSCHALE - The Bundesliga shield, lifted by the team which finishes top of the standings after 34 Matchdays



NACHSPIELZEIT - Additional/stoppage/extra time


DIE NATIONALMANNSCHAFT - The German national football team


DIE NATIONALELF - The national team, literally 'the National Eleven'


NEUZUGANG - New signing




DIE NULLFÜNFER - The '05-ers' or 1.FSV Mainz 05, founded in 1905


NORD-SÜD DUELL - Literally translated as the 'North-South Duel', this phrase is used as a label for the fixture Bayern München v Hamburger SV, traditionally one of German football's biggest matches


NORDDERBY - The term used for the derby played between northern giants and rivals Werder Bremen and Hamburger SV


ORDNER - Steward




PLATZVERWEIS - Sending-off


POKAL - Cup (DFB-Pokal - German Cup)


POTT - Pot; coll. both for cup and, in abbreviated form (Ruhrpott) for the Ruhr district


QUERPASS - Square ball


RASENBALLSPORTLiterally “Lawn-Ball Sport”, which RB Leipzig’s prefix  'RB' stands for


RAUMDECKUNG - Zonal marking


RAUMDEUTER - A term used by Thomas Müller to describe his unique style of play, which translates as 'space invader'.


REGIONALLIGA - The fourth tier of German football, split into 'Bavaria', 'North', 'South West', 'West' and 'North East'

DER REKORDMEISTER - Record champions (Bayern München)


REMIS - Draw

ROTE KARTE - Red card


ROTE LATERNE - Cellar-dwellers, or those in the bottom-half of the table


DIE ROTEN - Generally decked out in a ruby hue... Die Roten or 'The Reds'


DIE ROTEN BÜLLEN – The Red Bulls. RB Leipzig’s nickname


REVIERDERBY - The name typically given to the derby between regional neighbours FC Schalke 04 and Borussia Dortmund.


DIE ROTHOSEN - Hamburger SV, often referred to as 'The Red Shorts'


RÜCKRUNDE - The second half of the Bundesliga season, Matchdays 18-34


RÜCKSPIEL - The second game of a two-legged tie. Usually used when speaking of knock-out competitions but can also describe league encounters




SCThe prefix for SC Freiburg which stands for 'Sportclub' (literally: sport club)


DIE SCHANZER - Nickname for FC Ingolstadt 04. The nickname itself is rooted in the city’s history. When Ingolstadt became a fort in 1806 it earned the moniker 'die Schanz', meaning “entrenched” and deriving from the German word 'Verschanzen' - "to fortify". This also explains why some people in Ingolstadt still refer to natives as 'Schanzer'




SCHLENZER - Rasping long-range shot


SCHLUSSPFIFF - Final whistle

SCHWALBE - A deliberate dive to earn a penalty (an automatic red card in the Bundesliga)


DIE SCHWABEN - Hailing from Swabia in the south west of Germany, VfB Stuttgart tend to be called 'The Swabians'


DIE SCHWARZ-GELBEN - Named after their striking black and yellow colours, it's Borussia Dortmund


SCORER - Not to be confused with 'goalscorer', this term refers to the combined tally of goals and assists


SECHSER - A player who plays the 'No. 6' position in midfield, a defensive role in front of the back four


SIEG - Victory


SONNTAGSSCHUSS - A long-range shot




SPIELPLAN - Fixture list/schedule


SPITZELN - To toe-poke


SPVGGThe prefix for SpVgg Greuther Fürth which stands for 'Spielvereinigung' (literally: game association)


STADTRIVALE - Literally translated as 'city rivals' but can also refer to two rival clubs in neighbouring cities, such as Borussia Dortmund and FC Schalke 04


STAMMPLATZ - Regular place in the starting line-up


STANDARDSITUATION - Dead-ball situation




STRAFRAUM - Penalty area

STÜRMER - Forward, Striker


SV The prefix for Werder Bremen which stands for 'Sport-Verein' (literally: sport club)


TABELLENFÜHRER - League leaders


TEAMGEIST - Team spirit


TOR - Goal


TORHÜTER - Goalkeeper


TORJÄGER - Goal-getter


TORJÄGERKANONE - The cannon-shaped prize awarded to the Bundesliga's top scorer at the end of a season


TORSCHÜTZENKÖNIG - Leading scorer at the end of a season


TORWART - Goalkeeper


TRADITIONSVEREIN - A club rich in history and tradition and a long-time participant and/or champion in the Bundesliga, such as 1.FC Nürnberg, Borussia Mönchengladbach, and Hamburger SV




TRIBÜNE - Grandstand




TSG The prefix for TSG 1899 Hoffenheim which stands for 'Turn- und Sportgemeinschaft' (literally: gymnastics and sport community)


TURNIER - Tournament


TUNNELN - To nutmeg




UMKLEIDEKABINE - Dressing rooms, changing rooms

UNBESIEGT - Undefeated




UNGEDECKT- Unmarked, free










VfBThe prefix for VfB Stuttgart which stands for 'Verein für Bewegungsspiele' (literally: club for movement games)


VfLThe prefix for VfL Wolfsburg which stands for 'Verein für Leibesübungen' (literally: club for physical exercise)


VIZEMEISTER - Runners-up


VORSTOPPER - Centre-back, centre-half


WECHSELN - To substitute


WELTMEISTER - World Champion




ZEHNER - A player who plays in the 'No. 10' position, an attacking midfielder deployed behind the striker(s)


ZUSCHAUER - Spectators


ZWEIKAMPF - Tackle/man-on-man tussle


ZWEITE LIGA - Informal name for Bundesliga.2, Germany's second division

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