San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Brazil 2014

An A-Z guide to Costa Rican football slang: Watch the World Cup final like a Tico

The final mejenga (“match”) of the World Cup is set for Sunday afternoon. While La Sele (“Costa Rica’s national team”) won’t be playing, you can still watch the game like a Tico with our handy Spanish guide to football slang in Costa Rica.

That way you’ll know exactly what to say when Germany’s Miroslav Klose scores on a jupita (“header”) or when Lionel Messi makes the game-winner with a chilena (“bicycle kick”). Expect a lot of great plays from all the cracks (“star players”) on the field. And don’t forget to scream ¡Lo pintó de rojo! (“Give him a red card”) at your TV if a caballo (“a rough player”) makes a dirty play.


Abrir la cancha (“To open the field”) – To kick the ball towards the sidelines to make the playing field wider in order to better guard a team’s attack.

Acariciar el esférico / la bola (“To caress the ball”) — To kick the ball with a gentle touch; to have great ball control.

Ex. Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the best players in the world because he can acariciar el esférico so well.

Ariete — A forward; a striker.

Arquero — A goalie.

Barrida — A slide tackle.

Bicicleta (“bicycle”) — When the player makes a distracting movement with one leg, but takes the ball with the other.

Caballo (“horse”) – A rough player.

Cancerbero – A goalie; named after “Cerberus,” the mythological 3-headed dog that guarded the entrance to the underworld.

Chilena – A bicycle kick.

Ex: “A chilena by Raúl Jiménez saved Mexico’s life during World Cup qualifying.”

Comerse la cancha (“To eat up the field”) – When a player is running up and down the field the whole match with little time to rest.

Crack — A great player.

El uno-dos (“The one-two”) — A play where one player passes the ball to a teammate and he returns it immediately to the same player.

Jupa/jupita — A header.


La voló — To kick the ball over the goal.

La Sele/La Tricolor — Costa Rica’s national team.

Le dió al mundo (“To kick the earth”): To kick the ground instead of the ball.

Le dió con la de palo — To kick the ball with the weaker leg.

Mamón (“Sucker”) — A player who takes the ball and runs with it to the opposite goal without making a single pass to any of his teammates. Then the player immediately loses the ball on the other end; a ballhog.

Mano a mano (“Hand-to-hand combat”): When a player faces the goalie one-on-one.

Marco — Goal.

Mejenga – Used for pick-up football matches, but also applies to any match.

Milpa (“a cornfield”) — Offsides.

Patea más un pollito/perico en una bolsa — When a player kicks a ball too weakly to score.

¡Píntelo! (“Paint him”) – Give the player a yellow card or red card for a foul.

Piscinazo — A dive.

Ex. “The Netherlands’ Arjen Robben is notorious for his piscinazos.”

Planchetazo — To kick an opponent using the studs of one’s cleats.

Ex. “Portugal’s Pepe is a caballo who has committed some infamous plachetazos.”

Repartir bizcocho — To play roughly.


Sacar agua del barco/bote (“To remove water from the boat”) — When a defender kicks the ball in any direction just to keep it far from the goal.

Salir a cazar mariposas (“To catch butterflies”) — When the goalie jumps to catch a ball and fails.

Ex. “A compilation of goalies saliendo a cazar mariposas.”

Sombrero — To pass the ball over the opponent’s head; also known as “baño.”

Se echó la pata al hombro — When a player misses the ball and swings his leg in the air.

Tacos — Football shoes, also cleats.

Tapada/tapadón (“covered”) – A great save by a goalie.

Ex. “Costa Rica’s Keylor Navas had made some great tapadas on Lionel Messi when the two met in Spain’s league.”

Taquito – A heel pass.

Ex: “Costa Rica scored its first-ever World Cup goal on a taquito from Claudio Jara to Juan Cayasso against Scotland in 1990.”

(Un) Túnel — To pass the ball through an opponent’s legs; called “nut megging” or a “panna” in English.

Ex. Germany’s Miroslav Klose uses un túnel to get by a Swedish defender.

Volar lima — A rough play.

Zaguero – The defense.

Zapatazo — A powerful kick.

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Ken Morris

Good for you. I just ask a buddy to cue me when I’m suppose to shout “puta,” though I’m told that real mastery comes when you can also groan at the right times.

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