El Fútbol (Soccer)

SOUTH & CENTRAL AMERICA: Fútbol is an important part of the culture in many Spanish-speaking countries. During the 2014 World Cup, I happened to be in Buenos Aires–and the city exploded with enthusiasm after advancing to the finals. It seemed like everyone was your best friend, whether you knew them or not. Horns honked for 24 hours straight, people waved flags out of cars, gorged themselves on pizza, and held their breath as Messi kicked… and Argentina beat the Netherlands in the semi-finals. Spoiler alert: Germany won in the finals.

In class, students travel outside to play “Spanish soccer” and truly live the language. Here, the only–I repeat, only–rule that really matters is that students speak shout and yell in Spanish. “Who plays defense? What counts as a red or yellow card? Are the teams fair?” Frankly, none of that is too important–as long as students are running back and forth, kicking a ball, and shouting in the target language, I am happy as a clam.

Class Routine

Each day, students sign up for what they want to do. They can be a futbolista/soccer player, portero(a)/ arquero(a)/ goalie, entrenador(a)/coach, or árbitro(a)/referee. The two teams (that represent Spanish-speaking countries) get into a circle and chant either, “¡Este partido, lo vamos a ganar!” (we’re going to win this game!/Spain), or “Ganamos, perdimos, igual nos divertimos” (we win, we lose, either way we have fun!/ Guatemala).

Next, a special “visiting coach” [student] leads the teams in warm-up exercises. Now it is game time! Students work hard to shout in Spanish continuously, while trying to score a goal. Key vocabulary: Por acá/over here; pásala/pass it; la tengo/I got it; soy portero(a)/I’m goalie; la pelota/the ball; ¡apúrate!/hurry up!; casi/almost; hace mucho calor/it’s really hot; no manos/no hands; suelo/ground; ¿Qué?/What?; Yo dije…/I said; agua/water. Speaking English results in a penalty (referees have students count backwards in Spanish 5-0 and ‘complain’ “Quiero jugar”/I want to play!).

At the end of class, the teams line up and say, “¡Buen partido!” (good game!). While Mondays and Thursdays are practices, Fridays are official games and ‘Facepaint Fridays’, where students safety-pin paper flags to their shirts and have the option to paint their faces their team colors. Spanish music plays frequently, to help create a truly immersive experience.


  • ¡Pásala! (pass it)
  • ¡Por acá! (over here)
  • ¡Por allí! (over there)
  • La pelota/el balón (the ball)
  • Soy portero/a; soy arquero/a (I’m goalie)
  • ¡No manos! (no hands!)
  • ¡La tengo! (I got it!)
  • ¡Vamos! (Let’s go!)
  • ¡Patéala! (kick it!)
  • ¡Corre! (run!)
  • ¡Rápido! (quickly)
  • ¡Apúrate! (hurry up!)
  • ¡Sube! (go up the field)
  • ¡Quédate ahí! (stay there)
  • Defensa (defense)
  • Descanso/entretiempo
  • Fuera
  • No inglés (no English)
  • No fui yo (it wasn’t me)
  • Fue… (it was)
  • ¡Vamos a ganar! (we’re going to win!)
  • ¡Gooooool! (goal)
  • ¡Golazo! (amazing goal)
  • “Este partido, lo vamos a ganar.”
    • We’re going to win this game! (Spain)
  • “Ganamos, perdimos, igual nos divertimos.”
    • We win, we lose, either way we have fun! (Guatemala)
  • REPORTERO (un trabajo para alguien que no quiere o no puede jugar, por cualquier razón): “Fulanito tiene la pelota. Corre muy rápido. Patea la pelota y ¡GOOOOOOOL!(narra lo que sucede en tiempo real)
  • CONSECUENCIAS: Números 10-0 (cuenta regresiva obligatoria, como consecuencia por 10 segunditos cuando hablen en inglés o por accidente o a propósito)

Facepaint Fridays!

  • Mondays & Thursdays are practices, but Fridays are considered “official games”.
  • Here, students are welcome to paint stripes of their team’s Spanish-speaking flag on their cheeks.
  • They also have signs with their last name and favorite number to safety-pin to their shirts.

Film: Rated PG-13 (older students)