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Two Most Common Mistakes That Soccer Commentators Make

soccer commentator Two Most Common Mistakes That Soccer Commentators MakeWhen listening to soccer commentary, that there are two things that always irk me. One is when they shout “Offsides!” Two is when they talk about “goal differential.”

Offside is a singular term, not plural – unless you are talking about more than one offside that happened during a match. I’ve heard commentators say “offsides” so many times before that’s either a bad habit or they simply don’t know any better.

The other term that’s often used incorrectly by commentators and pundits is goal difference. It’s not goal differential. It’s goal difference. A differential is a mechanical device found in cars. Goal difference is the difference between the number of goals scored for and against.

What are other mistakes that commentators say that irks you? Click the comments link below and share your stories.

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About Christopher Harris

Founder and publisher of World Soccer Talk, Christopher Harris is the managing editor of the site. He has been interviewed by The New York Times, The Guardian and several other publications. Plus he has made appearances on NPR, BBC World, CBC, BBC Five Live, talkSPORT and beIN SPORT. Harris, who has lived in Florida since 1984, has supported Swansea City since 1979. He's also an expert on soccer in South Florida, and got engaged during half-time of a MLS game. Harris launched EPL Talk in 2005, which was rebranded as World Soccer Talk in 2013.
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52 Responses to Two Most Common Mistakes That Soccer Commentators Make

  1. Josh says:

    The only things that really upset me is when they definitively say whether or not it’s a foul, when it isn’t. I’d rather it they only say “Oh that’s a foul” when they’re absolutely sure. Also, I’m sure every fan gets a bit angry when the commentator shows bias towards the other team. As an Arsenal fan, I feel like we get our fair share lopsided commentaries going against us

  2. Rod says:

    During the Champion’s League knock-out stages,we always hear about the away goals rule—-away goals count double we always hear—-that’s wrong. The tie breaker is the team that scores more away goals will advance. COUNTIG DOUBLE ONLY HAPPENS AS FOLLOWS—If still all square after regulation play in leg 2, they play two 15 minute periods and if both teams score an equal number of goals, away goals count double (the visitors win). If no goals are scored, then penalty kicks. The commentators (Tommy Smyth from ESPN in particular) always get this wrong. I wrote ESPN a corrective letter last year–maybe that will help.

    • EastTerrace says:

      Rod – I know what you are trying to say here but I think you didn’t give the best example. While technically away goals count double, you are correct that this only applies in the case of a tied aggregate score. However, in the Champions League (and in FIFA World Cup Qualifying) this does apply before extra-time comes into play. If Porto play Milan in a 2-legged tie and the first game finishes 2-1 in Porto and the second game is 3-2 in Milan then Porto would automatically qualify without going into extra-time as they have scored 2 away goals to Milan’s 1. Extra-time would only come into play if both teams could not be separated (e.g. 2-1 score in both games).

      The term “away goals count double” is a very familiar term in the UK and Ireland and people understand that it is not literally correct but generally they do understand that it is only in the context of a tied aggregate score. While it is not technically correct I think it works as a good short-hand for the actual rule.

      • Rod says:

        Sorry, but you have it wrong. Your example is correct but away goals do not count double until the extra time comes into play in leg 2. Your example agrees with my statement that the team with the most away goals advances. The incorrect terminology is constantly used on ESPN, aimed at an American audience.

        • EastTerrace says:

          Yes, I’ve just read the rules and you’re correct on the Champions League (my mistake). However, this is actually the first time I have seen Extra-Time come into play before the away goals rule is applied. In the old UEFA cup, the Carling Cup and in the recent World Cup Playoffs the away goals rule is applied after the two legs of 90 minutes. In these competitions extra-time would only be played if the away goal rules could not divide the teams.

          Thanks for teaching me something new.

          • EastTerrace says:

            Sorry I had to correct this again. I believe my original post is correct. The UEFA rulebook reads as follows:

            Article 8
            Away goals and extra time
            8.01 For matches played under the knockout system, if the two teams involved in
            a tie score the same number of goals over the two legs, the team which
            scores more away goals qualifies for the next stage.

            This is the essence of the “away goals” rule. Extra-time is only played, even in the Champions League if the away goals rule has not decided a winner.

          • Rod says:

            Dear East Terrace—-I don’t understand your confusion. The team who scores the most away goals advances. If not, they play 2 extra 15 minute periods and if each side scores an equal number of goals, the away side wins (away goals count double in the extra time only)

          • EastTerrace says:

            In effect all away goals do count double – its the same thing whether it is before extra-time or after extra-time. Away goals are always worth more than home goals whether in normal time or extra-time so “away goals count double” is the correct terminology.

          • EastTerrace says:

            …after a drawn two-legged tie (to be clear)

        • Rod says:

          I don’t wish to belabor a point but I don’t think I’m getting through to you. AWAY GOALS DO NOT COUNT DOUBLE (with the exception of extra time as previously explained) READ THE RULES.

          • East Terrace says:

            It doesn’t matter whether they do or not – mathematically it makes no difference. If two teams tie after two legs then the team with more away goals qualifies – the away goals are hence worth more than home goals. It does not matter whether they count double or 1.5 times or 10 times – the result is the same. This is the same whether before or after extra-time.

            I know you are reading this from the UEFA CL rules where they use the terminology but there is no example where this is not the case. The result will always state 2-2 aet but Team B qualifies on away goals. You will never see a scoreline 2-2 aet but Team B wins 4-2

          • Rod says:

            I GIVE UP. It has nothing to do with value, or weight, or counting double, or being worth more. The bottom line is that in regular play if a team scores MORE away goals than the other team then THAT team advances. Its just a simple count—–3 away goals is more than 2 away goals. GOOD NIGHT & hopefully good-bye

          • East Terrace says:

            Typical American – take every rule literally. Give the game 50 years or so and you might understand it!

  3. Justin says:

    I really don’t see what’s wrong with saying differential. It may be a mechanical device, but it also does refer to difference which is actually its primary definition.

  4. Varun says:
    funny comic,you might like it.

    My most annoying one is. “Away goals count double” its so stupid and irritating.

  5. Richard says:

    I’ve never heard anyone say “offsides”, other than “Team X have had Y offsides today”, or say goal “differential”. Both are incredibly stupid and would annoy me as well.

    Name pronunciations annoy me the most. I have heard the following…

    “Bena-noon” (Benayoun)
    “Chimbomba” (Chimbonda)
    “Ca-ragger” (Carragher)
    “Yag-yelka” (Jagielka)
    “Sagnia” (Sagna)
    “Boswingwa” (Bosingwa)
    “Felleeny” & “Fe-line-y” (Fellaini)
    “Zannetti” (Zayatte)
    “Pa-lay-cios” (Palacios)

    I also hate when commentator use nicknames such as “Chucho” (Benitez), “The Yak” (Yakubu)

    Having said that, I always like it when a commentator pronounces the second G in “N’Gog”, rather than saying “N’Go”. It always make me smile and chuckle.

    • Lennon says:

      To be fair to the commentators, Christian Benitez has “Chucho” on the back of his jersey. Makes sense to me that they should use the name on the back of his jersey.

      As a Spurs supporter, my favorite error is “Palacious” instead of “Palacios”… to be fair, his influence in the side is indeed palacious, but that’s not his name. Honorary mention goes to the pronunciation “Kran-kyar” instead of “Kran-char” for Niko Kranjcar.

  6. robert says:

    “What are other mistakes that commentators say that irks you?”

    … anything Max Bretos utters is usually in that category. I have to literally turn off the volume sometimes.

    • MarkB says:

      Only sometimes? Honestly, Max Bretos’ diarrhea of the mouth drives me right up the wall. I can’t even stand the sight of his idiotic looking, head bobbing, grinning face on the TV.

  7. Richard says:

    Here’s some spoof ‘American commentaries’ that used to be a Saturday morning football show in England. Let me know what you think…

  8. M Garcia says:


    You made my day. Never heard nor seen these guys before. Classic! This is what soccer in Ameica is screaming out for. I’m ready to start a petition to send these guys straight to ESPN for the June 12th matchup between Us and Them.

  9. hank says:

    Main Entry: 1dif·fer·en·tial
    Pronunciation: ?di-f?-?ren(t)-sh?l

    1 a : of, relating to, or constituting a difference

    • The Gaffer says:

      Hank, yes, the word differential can also be used to constitute a difference (as well as a mechanical device), but the correct term for the difference in soccer between goals scored for and goals scored against is “goal difference,” not “goal differential.”

      The Gaffer

      • quakes says:

        “differential” is the norm in the USA actually, all baseball stat nerds (sabermetricians) use the term “run differential” regularly in baseball. It doesn’t bother me and in fact seems very normal to use it in soccer.

        • The Gaffer says:

          Quakes, but soccer is not baseball.

          The Gaffer

          • Justin says:

            If you’re going to call it soccer, your argument falls flat really. Differential is a sporting term in the USA, soccer is the name for football in the USA, both go hand in hand don’t they?

          • quakes says:

            You stated that, “A differential is a mechanical device found in cars.”

            My point is that is not the ONLY use of the term, and using “differential” to describe point differences in sports is also valid.

            Also, soccer is taking a lot of cues from baseball now, in terms of trying to better measure performance. Moneyball and sabermetrics are very influential to the increased statistics-based analysis of soccer… see the recent book Soccernomics.

          • ovalball says:

            Let it go, Gaffer. ;-)

  10. Ryano says:

    As a TV commentator myself, I find these types of posts immensely helpful. I’m color analyst for the local NPSL side (Rocket City United) here in Huntsville, AL, and I did the NPSL championships last year. I can tell you from experience that it is much harder than it looks to not sound like an idiot. :) To read what annoys people gives me an better idea of what not to include in my broadcasts. Thanks.

    BTW, growing up I was always told that the term was “offsides”. It was not until I took a refereeing course as an adult that I learned that there is no “s” on the end. Then again, one of my youth coaches called the keeper a “goldie”, so maybe I wasn’t learning the game from experts. :)


  11. John says:

    I hate when football commentators feel the need to comment on every single thing the camera shows. The worst is when the camera keeps showing the managers or players on the bench and the commentators scramble to annouce “what they must be thinking right now”…How do we know that Sir Alex isn’t thinking of a great pair of tits?!

    Just let the camera man do his job…not everything needs to be commented on with a dramatic backstory.

  12. Jeff says:

    That’s a good one, John. Those are absolutely useless comments about what the people pictured might be thinking.

    Any time a commentator is overly opinionated, and there’s a hint that he might be exaggerating his certainty, it’s annoying.

    I like Martin Tyler’s commentary because it’s all about the football, and he knows what he’s talking about – at least I often agree with him.

    I’ve been watching a bunch of Arsenal matches on delay through the Arsenal web site, and the commentary is an Arsenal commentary, and I really like it. They’re more critical and honest about Arsenal than a commentator trying to be neutral can be.

    Most commentary is annoying to some degree unless they keep it about the football on the pitch, and they’re clearly into as much as they should be, while still managing to not be annoying.

  13. Nigel O'Rourke says:

    Any word spoken by an American announcer!!! Nothing more frustrating than having those idiots at FSC introduce the matches before turning it over to the match commentators!

    Also – less is better. But that’s not the American way. Whatever sport it is – football (soccer), tennis, American sports – American announcers always seem to state the obvious, believing that I am watching just to listen to them.

    btw – I’m American!

    • MarkB says:

      Nigel, I have to agree with you 100% on this. “Less is better” just doesn’t seem to work in any facet of American announcing. I’ve had people argue with me that soccer announcers in this country have to over analyse because of the unsophisticated nature of their audience. This is a load of crap, they are just caught up in their sense of self importance. To me, it’s that “We get soccer, so we’re cool” mentality displayed so often on FSC and also ESPN in certain cases. In other sports, baseball has to be the most overanalysed because of the down time between pitches. But which is worse a few seconds of silence or Tim McCarver repeating the same insipid crap over and over? I can really do without the talking heads. Just describe the action, and I think I can figure out the hows and whys on my own.

  14. Jeff says:

    There’s nothing genetic about American’s that should keep us from producing a decent football commentator, but we’re probably a couple generations away from seeing that happen!

    Less is definitely more when there’s a good match with good crowd noise.

    And when a commentator does chime in, it helps if it’s something interesting related to the match. The commentators need to love the content more, and then they’ll be less likely to detract from it with inanities.

    Allan Hopkins was fairly decent when he did commentary. He doesn’t have the best voice ever, but he checks a lot of the boxes: obvious enthusiasm, which leads to in-depth knowledge, and he’s not really annoying. He only ever got a chance, the way I remember it, with German matches.

    The American presentation is always disjointed because they’re switching between their own content and the real feed of the match, and because of the hideous commercials that plague FSC.

  15. bookmakers says:

    i hate it when they mistake the names of the players…

  16. Ross says:

    Commentators not knowing the rules, specifically regarding fouls. Things such as “there was no malice in the tackle.” A foul is a foul, regardless of intent. Or, “he got the ball,” after taking out an opponent’s legs. Defenders have to play the ball first and even then the ref may judge a tackle to be dangerous and give a yellow card.

  17. Ray Hudson says:

    I like it when they say “absolutely magesterial”

  18. ovalball says:

    I know this is a no-no, but since Ray twisted the thread my two FAVORITES are: (insert player) “……….. didn’t know much about that.” and (insert ref) “……….wasn’t interested.” You just have to love the understatement.


  19. PABLO says:

    I love how no one can pronounce Bojan Krkic. Its not Bo-han or Bo-jan it is Boy-yon its a slavic name and that is how it is pronounced. Even spanish comentators mess it up. Everytime a new foreigner shows up in a league, the first question asked should be how to pronounce his name.

  20. El says:

    Here is one – once and awhile they’ll refer to the Premier League as the “Premiership”. Yes, I know it used to be the Premiership.

  21. Jammer says:

    My biggest pet peeve is shouting GOL for 5 minutes every goal on Spanish broadcasts.

  22. Jammer says:

    From Meriam Webster:
    Function: noun
    2 : a difference between comparable individuals or classes ; also : the amount of such a difference

  23. Rod says:

    Ray Hudson on Gol-tv. When someone scores a goal he’s a genius or when a coach/manager wins a competition he’s a genius or when makes a nice pass he’s a genius. Brilliant and genius are way too overused. Note to Ray—find some other superlatives

  24. John says:

    Rod, are you talking about the Scottish guy that does most of the La Liga games? If so, I totally agree, he sounds like he’s having an orgasm and meeting God everytime Messi connects a pass…

  25. DaveMo says:

    I got no problems with offsides or with differential. It did bug me when my son’s coach talked about playing a 2-4-4 formation (starting with the forwards, and moving backward).

  26. Remi says:

    “Differential is a sporting term in the USA, soccer is the name for football in the USA, both go hand in hand don’t they? ”
    I almost did not put a reply to this because it is just such a stupid argument. ‘The Gaffer’ most likely called it soccer because the other person had! Goal difference was the original term used, and will always remain so. In the majority of English-speaking commentary, you will hear Goal “DIFFERENCE”, not differential. I’m sorry if the Americans want to be ‘differential’ to everyone else, but just because a term is used in baseball IN AMERICA doesn’t mean it has to be used in football ANYWHERE ELSE

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