Nutmeg (football)

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A nutmeg being performed in a women's football game.

A nutmeg (or tunnel) is a technique used in association football, field hockey or basketball, in which a player rolls or throws the ball through an opponent's legs. This can be done in order to pass to another player, to shoot on goal, or to carry on and retrieve it.

Nutmeg is the British English name for this move.

  • In Hispanic America this skill is known as "caño", "túnel", or "ordeñar".
  • In many other European/Latin and African countries it is called "panna", a Surinamese word.
  • In Scotland it is known as "50p"[citation needed] or "peg"[citation needed].
  • In Germany it is called "Tunnel" (tunnel) or "Beinschuss" (leg shot).
  • In France it is called "petit pont" (little bridge).
  • In Ukraine it is called "25 kopiyok" - (25 копійок), meaning 25 cents player owes.
  • In South Africa it is also known as a "iShibobo".
  • In Jamaican English it is known as "salad".
  • In Dutch it is known by the verb "poorten" (lit. 'gating') and the noun "panna".
  • In Nigeria it is commonly referred to as "O-C" (oh see).
  • In Arabic speaking countries it is called "bayyaḍeẗ" (بيضة), meaning an egg (n), or "kobry" (كبري), meaning "bridge (n)".
  • In Malaysia and Singapore it is known as an "olé" or "50sen".
  • In Kenya it is commonly known as "chobo" or "chobwe".
  • In Japan it is called "Matanuki".
  • In Iran it is called "lauyee" (لایی).
  • In Brazil it is called a "caneta" (pen), "saia" (skirts) or "rolinho" (little roll).
  • In Polish it is called "założyć [komuś] siatkę" (put [sb] a net).
  • In Hungarian it is called "kötény" (apron).
  • In Italy it is simply called "tunnel".
  • In Indonesia it is called "kolong" meaning "the space under" or "ngolongin" (v).
  • In Ethiopia it is called "lochie".
  • In Sweden it is called "tunnel".


The origins of the word are a point of debate. An early use is in the novel A bad lot by Brian Glanville (1977).[1]

According to Alex Leith's book Over the Moon, Brian - The Language of Football,[2] "nuts refers to the testicles of the player through whose legs the ball has been passed and nutmeg is just a development from this".

The use of the word nutmeg to mean leg in Cockney rhyming slang has also been put forward as an explanation.[citation needed]

Another theory was postulated by Peter Seddon in his book "Football Talk - The Language And Folklore Of The World's Greatest Game".[3] The word arose because of a sharp practice used in nutmeg exports between America and England. "Nutmegs were such a valuable commodity that unscrupulous exporters were to pull a fast one by mixing a helping of wooden replicas into the sacks being shipped to England," writes Seddon. "Being nutmegged soon came to imply stupidity on the part of the duped victim and cleverness on the part of the trickster." It soon caught on in football, implying that the player whose legs the ball had been played through had been tricked, or, nutmegged.

The notion that the term 'nutmeg' is derived from the name of a Leeds United player called Tony Nutmeg is spurious; there never was a Leeds United player of this name.[citation needed]

A similar term, "5-hole," is used in ice hockey when the puck goes between the goalie's legs into the goal. The two terms should not be confused, and it would be incorrect to use the term "nutmeg" in ice hockey.[citation needed]

Further reading[edit]

  • "The Nutmeg dribbling trick". Expert Football. Retrieved 2005-12-20.  — stills of a player executing a nutmeg, demonstrating the trick of pulling the ball back in order to force the defender to open his legs.
  • "Finishing and Scoring". Expert Football. Retrieved 2005-12-20.  — A well-positioned goalkeeper may be vulnerable to a nutmeg.


  1. ^ Page 57 "He nutmegged him ! ' 'He did,' said Peter Bailey, wonderingly, 'he did. A proper nutmeg.' What Jack had done, in fact, was to slip the ball between the legs.."
  2. ^ Alex Leith Over the Moon, Brian - The Language of Football
  3. ^ Peter Seddon "Football Talk - The Language And Folklore Of The World's Greatest Game"
  1. Ingle, Sean (2005-09-07). "Where does the term nutmeg come from - the final word". The Knowledge (London: The Guardian). Retrieved 2006-08-01.